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Damascus and Aleppo battles go on

Activists have said that Syrian government forces are battling rebels outside the capital Damascus and in Aleppo, where fighting for control over the country's largest city has raged for more than two weeks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added that residents have reported hearing loud blasts in Damascus on Friday from the shelling on the outer edges of the city.

Syrian troops say they have purged rebels from the capital after intense, week-long battles last month. But rebels continue to stage hit-and-run attacks and are active in the suburbs around the city.

Shelling and clashes are also continuing in the northern city of Aleppo on Friday.

The rebels said on Thursday that they were low on ammunition but were still managing to put up resistance against a regime ground offensive.

Meanwhile, US officials said that the Obama administration is readying new sanctions on Syrian president Bashar Assad's regime and its allies.

Senior officials travelling with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she wraps up a nine-nation tour of Africa say that fresh sanctions aimed at hastening Assad's departure are imminent. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to preview the move.

Clinton is heading to Istanbul for weekend talks with top Turkish officials and opposition activists.

The sanctions will complement existing penalties already imposed.

The talks in Turkey will focus on forming a "common operational picture" to guide a democratic transition in post-Assad Syria.

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