Damascus: Syrian forces killed at least 22 protesters as tens of thousands swarmed the streets after Friday prayers, activists said, a day after President Bashar al-Assad pledged that assaults on civilians had ended.
Meanwhile, Russia and Turkey dismissed growing calls led by US President Barack Obama for Assad to quit, offering the embattled Syrian leader rare support despite a damning UN report on his "apparent shoot to kill" policy.
But the European Union was preparing sanctions against Syria's key oil sector, a European diplomatic source said.
On the political front, a group of "revolutionary blocs" formed a coalition vowing to bring down the regime and paid tribute to more than 2,000 civilians killed in a crackdown on protesters since mid-March.
Activists said 22 protesters were killed and many others wounded in demonstrations after Friday prayers.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 15 people were killed, including an 11-year-old and a 72-year-old, in the southern province of Daraa, epicentre of the anti-regime protests that erupted March 15.
Five were killed in the central city of Homs, one in the Harasta suburb of Damascus and another in the capital's suburb of Douma.
The Observatory said on Friday security forces opened fire on protesters, also wounding 25 people, in the Ghabagheb, Inkhil, Al-Herak and Nawa neighbourhoods in Daraa, but the official SANA news agency blamed the shooting on "armed men."
The agency said a policeman and a civilian were killed in Ghabagheb and six security forces wounded.
Tens of thousands of people flooded streets in major towns on Friday as they emerged from the weekly prayers, with the largest anti-regime demonstration reported in Homs.