Russia yesterday rejected the latest bid for UN action to end the political crisis in Syria, as at least 20 more people were killed, several in clashes between loyalist and rebel troops.

The violence came as thousands of people across Syria defied the government crackdown to commemorate a notorious 1982 massacre in Hama that killed thousands. The commemorations took place as Western and Arab countries sought to reach agreement on a draft UN resolution to pressure Syria to end its nearly 11-month crackdown on anti-regime dissent.

A text being considered by UN Security Council does not explicitly call on President Bashar al-Assad to step down or mention an arms embargo or sanctions, but “fully supports” an Arab League plan to facilitate a democ-ratic transition.

Diplomats said the new draft took into account concerns by Moscow, a staunch ally of Damascus. But Russia poured cold water on such hopes yesterday, saying it could not support the latest draft in its current form.

Meanwhile at least 20 people were reported killed across Syria yesterday, several during clashes between government troops and dissident soldiers, activists In Hama’s central neighbourhood of Junub al-Malaab, security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least one and wounding three, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based group said nine soldiers were killed in clashes with the rebel Free Syrian Army in the southern province of Daraa, while two children died in an explosion in Idlib.

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