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The United States condemned on Monday Syria’s crackdown on anti-government demonstrations over the weekend, accusing the government of using “disproportionate force” against protesters.

“We call on the Syrian government to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully. Those responsible for the violence over the weekend must be held accountable,” said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Reports indicated the Syrian government used “disproportionate force” against civilians, both protesters as well as mourners of those killed in earlier demonstrations, Vietor added.

At least one person was killed and more than 100 wounded Sunday when Syrian security forces fired on protesters who went on the rampage in the southern city of Daraa, rights activists said.

A Syrian official denied the reported death.

On Saturday security forces arrested dozens of protesters in Daraa, where thousands of people attended the funerals of two of the four victims who died in protests on Friday.

“We call on the Syrian government to exercise restraint and refrain from violence against these …protesters,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, condemning “violence by the Syrian government.”

“We call on the Syrian government to live up to its obligations under the universal declaration of human rights and allow the Syrian people to exercise the universal right of assembly.”

Hundreds of people demonstrated against the Syrian government in the town of Jassem on Monday, activists said, as unrest spread in southern Syria. “They are staging a sit-in the center of the town,” one of the activists said.

Thousands of Syrians marched Monday in the southern town of Daraa after the funeral of a protester killed in the previous day’s demonstration inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, a resident said.

The resident said “a mass of demonstrators started to march from the cemetery towards Al-Omari mosque after the burial” of Raed Akrad, who was killed by security forces on Sunday when they used live ammunition to break up a protest.

Deraa,a city in the Hauran region close to the border with Jordan, has seen the most sizable protests so far. But demonstrations have also taken place in Homs, Damascus and its environs, Der el Zor, the Kurdish city of Qamishli, Banias and Aleppo.AFP

Photo: Syrian people gather outside the main courthouse, which was set on fire by demonstrators demanding freedom and an end to corruption, in the southern Syrian city of Daraa March 21, 2011.

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