REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- Opposition activists said Syrian security forces killed at least 17 people as the government faced an Arab League deadline of Saturday for beginning to implement a faltering peace plan.
Demonstrators across Syria chanted antigovernment slogans and called on foreign nations to expel their Syrian ambassadors -- a move that would further isolate the government of President Bashar Assad.
Damascus and Arab League representatives were said to be haggling about the terms of an observer mission to be sent to Syria.
The league suspended Syria's membership in the 22-nation organization because of what it calls Syria's failure to implement the league-brokered peace plan, meant to end eight months of bloodshed. The pact calls on Syria to withdraw troops from towns and cities, release prisoners and initiate a dialogue with the opposition.
The plan also requires Syria to allow independent monitors into the country.
Syria insists it has begun implementing the plan in good faith, releasing more than 1,500 prisoners and offering an amnesty for gunmen with "no blood on their hands."
Opposition leaders say scores of antigovernment marches took place throughout Syria after Muslim prayers Friday, the traditional day for protests. Among the 17 reported slain, an opposition coalition said, were seven people, including three children, killed in shelling in the southern city of Dara, where the protest movement began in mid-March. The reports could not be independently verified.
-- Patrick J. McDonnell
Photo: Syrians living in Turkey chant slogans against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in front of the Syrian Consulate in Istanbul, on Nov. 18, 2011. Credit: Mustafa Ozer AFP/Getty Images