Protesters test Syria truce deal
Tens of thousands of Syrians have poured into the nation's streets for anti-government protests in the first major test of a fragile UN-brokered truce.
Security forces used live rounds, tear gas and beat some protesters, but there was no immediate sign of widespread shelling, sniper attacks or other potential violations of the ceasefire.
However, at least three protesters were shot dead by security forces, activists said.
President Bashar Assad's regime has cracked down on protest rallies in the past and earlier suggested it would not allow them to resume, insisting protesters needed to seek permission first.
Syrian forces tightened security in public squares and outside mosques. A major outbreak of violence at a chaotic rally could give government forces a pretext for ending the peace plan, which aims to calm a year-old uprising that has killed 9,000 people and pushed the country towards civil war.
The truce is at the centre of international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point plan to stop the bloodshed and launch talks on a political transition. A 13-month uprising against Assad had become increasingly violent in response to his brutal crackdown.
Mr Annan's spokesman said the plan had been "relatively respected" despite the continued presence of government troops and heavy weapons in population centres. Ahmad Fawzi also said an advance team of UN observers is poised to enter Syria if the Security Council gives the green light.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that tens of thousands of protesters calling for Assad's removal marched in cities and towns across Syria.
The Observatory said one marcher was killed in the opposition stronghold of Hama as he and others tried to reach the main Assi Square, which protesters occupied for several weeks last year. Two others were killed and 11 wounded in the southern town of Nawa when protesters came under fire from security forces as they gathered in the central square, said area activist Adel al-Omari.
Earlier on Friday, Syrian troops fought with rebels near the border with Turkey, and other scattered violence was reported.