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Syria, Libya (and Beyond) LiveBlog: So What's in a Speech?

Claimed footage of Syrian forces firing on protesters last Friday in the Khalidiya neighbourhood of Homs

2032 GMT: The BBC runs this report from Zliten, Libya...

1907 GMT: The US State Department Spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, has defended a Syrian-government funded trip by a US ambassador to tour northern Syria. Nuland said that it was an opportunity for Ambassador Robert Ford to "see for himself the results of the Syrian government's brutality." According to Ford, the town of Jisr al-Shughour, a focus of the tour, was abandoned, and there were no civilians present to dispute the Syrian government's claims.

1844 GMT: An activist with sources in Libya is claiming that NATO has struck positions occupied by pro-Gaddafi forces near Nalut. Also, Gaddafi's forces in Ghazaya have also been hit by NATO aitstrikes five times in the last day, and his forces in Ruwais have also been struck:

"Mobile Communication cut off in southern  in the following cities :   ."

1811 GMT: Journalists in Libya are reporting that Misurata is once again being shelled by Gaddafi forces, potentially by Grad rockets. Three or four large explosions have been heard in the last hour, and there were explosions on Benghazi street.

According to Ben Wedeman:

"The 3 grad-type rockets that fell on  this evening contained 100s of small metal balls. Teenage girl was lightly injured."

1800 GMT: According to Al Jazeera, this fountain is in al-Marjeh square, in the center of Damascus. It has been filled with red paint to symbolize the martyrs killed by Syrian security forces.

1557 GMT: An update - Earlier we reported that a NATO drone was shot down. We mistakenly called in a Predator Drone. However, the aircraft appears to be a MQ-8 Fire Scout, a drone helicopter which experts were unaware was operating in the area.

So what is the significance? The United States has deployed another weapon in NATO's efforts in Libya, perhaps yet another sign of the weakness of NATO's other member nations, backing Defense Secretary Robert Gates' argument that the US is too large a part of NATO's arsenal.

1510 GMT: Opposition groups are reporting that at least 7 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and Assad-supporters in three different cities in Syia (updated from 1410 GMT). There is also a report from a member of the Local Co-ordinating Committees that a 13-year-old boy has been killed.

This picture shows a large crowd of Assad supporters gathered in Umayyad Square, Damascus.

1504 GMT: The Human Rights Watch has discovered at least 150 landmines, buried in one location in the Nasufa Mountains by pro-Gaddafi forces. The mines have been identified, disarmed and removed by rebel forces.  

The rebels have pledged not to use landmines, according to the HRW.

1439 GMT: An activist has posted a series of videos, reportedly taken today in Qaboun, Damascus. The anti-government protesters are a response to the pro-Assad rallies being held today.

Though the video is edited together, we've seen several unedited versions posted by the same account today, and many of the posters and pieces of paper have today's date.

1424 GMT: The International Committee of the Red Cross is reporting that they have been given "unrestricted access" to investigate the human rights situation in Syria. According to the report, the Red Cross has met resistance, but today the Syrian government agreed to allow them access. 

We'll see how "unrestricted" the access is in the following days and weeks.

1410 GMT: In Syria, Assad's supporters have launched their own counter-rallies in Damascus, Deraa, Hama and Homs, only the third time the pro-Assad contingent has taken to the streets since protests began in March.. Three have been killed in clashes between Assad supporters and anti-government protesters in city of Homs and the town of Mayadeen in Deir al-Zor province.

"It is difficult to say who started first, but the army's armoured personnel carriers drove through the (anti-Assad) demonstration firing at people. One is confirmed killed but seven more people suffered serious wounds," a resident of Mayadeen said.

1406 GMT: James Miller, reporting for duty.

Al Jazeera is reporting that NATO's first predator drone has been shot down over Libya.

1220 GMT: Protest in Dhamar in southwestern Yemen challenging the regime:

And a march in Taiz demands a trial of the regime for corruption and the formation of a transitional government.

1210 GMT: Yemeni military officials say that more than 100 soldiers have now been killed in fighting with insurgents in the southern city of Zinjibar.

1205 GMT: Claimed footage of anti-regime protest last night in Damascus:

1150 GMT: Bloomberg claims that the Libyan regime is facing a fuel crisis as it enduring a fourth month without diesel cargoes, including the fuel needed to power tanks.

1145 GMT: Claimed footage of an anti-regime protest last night in Homs:

1140 GMT: NATO, denying claims by the Libyan regime that a manned Apache helicopter has been shot down, has said that an unmanned helicopter drone crashed.

1055 GMT: Back to our opening story --- tens of thousands of Syrians have rallied in support of President Assad, a day after his nationally-televised speech offering general promises of "reform" and "national dialogue".

The marchers shouted, "The people want Bashar Assad!" and releasing balloons in the black, white and red colours of the Syrian flag.

The largest gathering appeared to be in Damascus, but Syrian state TV showed demonstrations in the northern cities of Aleppo and Latakia, Hasaka in the northeast, and the southern city of Daraa.

1050 GMT: In Jordan, Minister of Information Taher Adwan has resigned because of new press and publication laws that he believes are "restrictive for freedom of expression".

0720 GMT: The Bahraini regime has unveiled a logo and a slogan for its "national dialogue":

0710 GMT: Omani authorities have sentenced 10 protesters, accused of rioting, to three years in jail.

The Ibri Criminal Court found the 10 guilty of preventing authorities from performing their duties, vandalising government buildings and not allowing employees to leave offices until late in the night, as well as damaging vehicles and obstructing traffic.

Eight others were given one year in prison, while another two will spend three months in jail. Nine were acquitted.

0615 GMT: The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates has ordered a freeze on the assets of 19 Libyan individuals in line with United Nations resolutions.

0610 GMT: Former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his wife, Leila Trabelsi, have been sentenced in absentia to 35 years in prison and ordered to pay $65 million in fines.

The couple were charged with theft and unlawful possession of foreign currency, jewellery, archaeological artefacts, drugs, and weapons.

Ben Ali and Trabelsi left Tunisia on 14 January after mass protests against the regime, eventually arriving in Saudi Arabia The former president claimed yesterday that he had escorted his family for their safety but had intended to return to Tunisia; he claims an air crew "tricked" him by taking off before he could board the plane.

0605 GMT: Senior officials of the Yemeni regime, talking about the fight against insurgents in the south, have expanded the narrative on "terrorism".

One official said, "More than 85 per cent of the fighters killed in Abyan over the last three weeks have not been Al Qaeda members. Militants in Abyan and other areas in the south are well-known Jihadists, but we cannot prove their links to Al Qaeda."

Among the targets has been the Jaar farm of Khaled Abdul Nabi, considered one of the most powerful insurgents since the early 1990s. Last week, the ministry said it arrested 10 militants with links to Mr Nabi.

Qasem Bin Hadi, head of security in the flashpoint city of Zinjibar, said, "Who said that only Al Qaeda is a terrorist group in Yemen? These militants are causing as much problems for Yemen as Al Qaeda." He claimed Zinjibar has turned into a ghost town and that clashes are non-stop.

0600 GMT: The trail of 20 Bahraini doctors resumed on Monday, as their families claimed they had been abused to make confessions.

The wife of one of the defendants said the physicians had been forced to stand for three weeks and had been unable to sleep.

The doctors are accused of taking over the country's biggest hospital, the Salmaniyah Medical Centre, and using it as a base to overthrow the Bahraini regime. The first regime witness accused them of a list of crimes including the theft of blood from the blood-bank and transporting guns in ambulances.

0545 GMT: The opposition government in Libya has bought close to 100,000 tonnes of wheat and flour in recent weeks, the first major commercial food deals since the uprising against the Qaddafi regime.

The food shipments are mainly coming by land through Egypt and Tunisia,as ship owners are reluctant to risk their fleets. Qatar and possibly the United Arab Emirates are reportedly providing the financing, with Russia, France, Serbia, and Ukraine among the suppliers. They said the National Transitional Council (NTC), based in the eastern held city of Benghazi, was making the purchases.

A dealer said, “European banks are currently unwilling to confirm letters of credit for the government side but are willing to work with the rebel side. Often the word Libya does not appear on the bank documents. The rebels seem to have enough money to pay, with people speculating this comes from their oil sales or a supportive government.”

0530 GMT: The summaries of Syrian President Assad's speech on Monday have been predictable. A regime spokesman said it was "historic"; the US Government called it "empty rhetoric"; and protesters took to the streets, "We want only one thing --- toppling the regime!"

But will Assad's statement change anything?

Not really. There was the ritual display of dividing up the opposition into "good" protesters --- those whose demands would be heard by a regime that had learned from its mistakes of the 1980s --- and the "bad" of terrorists, outlaws, and radicals.

There were general proclamations of reform, with elections for Parliament by August and implementation of (undefined) measures by September, but little more than the prospect that "the national dialogue authority will soon hold a dialogue on how to conduct the national dialogue".

The purpose of the speech was to shore up support for Assad, who had not spoken publicly for two months. There will be no converts among those who are dedicated to his overthrow, there will be no release of presure by regime forces, especially in trouble spots like Idlib Province in the northwest, there will be nothing of significance for Syria's troubled economy, about which the President said little yesterday. The key marker is whether the statement makes some contribution to the regime holding firm in Damascus, both among its inner circle and among the population.

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