Syrian troops 'kill 13 civilians'

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Syrian forces killed at least 13 civilians in the central town of Rastan yesterday, activists said, in the latest attempt to quell a revolt against the 11-year rule of the President Bashar al-Assad.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Mr Assad's legitimacy had "nearly run out" and called for a more united international response to the crackdown in Syria.

Syria's exiled opposition, meeting in Turkey, urged Mr Assad to resign immediately and hand power to the vice-president until a council was formed to oversee a transition to democracy.

"The delegates have committed to the demands of the Syrian people to bring down the regime and support the people's revolution for freedom and dignity," said a communiqué issued by 300 opposition figures after two days of talks in Antalya.

Security forces backed by tanks have laid siege to Rastan, a town of 60,000, since Sunday in an effort to crush protests. The 13 dead were shot by security forces who imposed a curfew, said Ammar Qurabi, head of the Syrian Organisation for Human Rights.