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In Syria, nearly 90 dead from battles

BEIRUT -- Army defectors ambushed dozens of Syrian troops and regime forces gunned down civilians during one of the bloodiest days of the country's 8-month-old uprising, which appeared yesterday to be spiraling out of President Bashar Assad's control.

Up to 90 people were killed in a gruesome wave of violence Monday, activists said. The extent of the bloodshed came to light only yesterday, in part because corpses lying in the streets did not reach the morgue until daylight.

As the bloodshed spiked, Assad's former allies were turning on him in rapid succession, a sign of profound impatience with a leader who has failed to stem months of unrest that could explode into a regional conflagration.

Turkey, Jordan and the 22-member Arab League all signaled they were fed up with Assad's response to the uprising and were ready to pressure him to go.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday he no longer has confidence in the government led by Assad, 46, an eye doctor who inherited power from his father 11 years ago.

"No regime can survive by killing or jailing," said Erdogan, who had cultivated close ties with Assad before the uprising began in March. "No one can build a future over the blood of the oppressed."

Turkey canceled plans for oil exploration in Syria and threatened to cut electricity supplies to the country, which is burning through the $17 billion in foreign reserves the government had at the start of the uprising.

A day earlier, King Abdullah of Jordan said Assad should step down, the first Arab leader to publicly make such a call.

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