Surrender your weapons or die, Assad regime warns rebels in leaflet drop

Syrian military helicopters dropped thousands of leaflets over Damascus and its suburbs yesterday, urging rebels to hand over their weapons or face "inevitable death" as part of a widening and deadly offensive.

The leaflets appear to be part of the regime's psychological warfare against the rebels, but are highly unlikely to have any effect. Human-rights groups say more than 20,000 people have been killed in Syria since the revolt began in March 2011.

The head of the main Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council, criticised US officials for saying it was premature to speak about a provisional Syrian government.

Speaking after the French President, François Hollande, called on the Syrian opposition to form a provisional government that France would recognise, Abdelbaset Sieda, said the opposition is making "serious" preparations to announce a transitional administration, but admitted it is not imminent.

The US officials had said it was too early for Mr Hollande to talk of a provisional government when Syria's fractured opposition hasn't agreed a transition plan.