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Syria seeks emergency Arab summit

BEIRUT -- Syria's embattled regime called for an urgent Arab summit as it faced growing isolation yesterday, not only by the West but by its neighbors as well, over its bloody crackdown against an eight-month-old uprising.

The crisis raised regional tensions, with Turkey sending a plane to evacuate nonessential personnel after a night of attacks on embassies by government supporters angry over the Arab League decision Saturday to suspend Syria's membership.

The 22-member bloc's 19-3 vote -- only Lebanon, Yemen and Syria opposed it -- put Damascus in direct confrontation with other Arab powers, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which pushed for the suspension. The vote was a boost for the Syrian opposition.

Tens of thousands of government supporters poured into the streets of Damascus and other cities Sunday, the turnout helped by the government's closing of businesses and schools so that people could take part. "You Arab leaders are the tails of Obama," read a banner at a pro-regime rally in Damascus, accusing the Arab League of bowing to U.S. pressure.

Violence continued elsewhere, with activists reporting at least 14 people killed in shootings by security forces in several parts of the country. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said seven deaths occurred in Hama when security forces fired on opposition protesters who infiltrated a pro-government rally.

Syria's call for an Arab summit to discuss the country's spiraling political unrest was seen as another bid by President Bashar Assad to buy time as he faces punitive action over a crackdown that the UN estimates has killed more than 3,500 since mid-March.

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