In Syria, residents of Deraa report that government troops have launched a bombardment against rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
It came a day after Assad promised a referendum on a new constitution and multi-party elections within three months.
The reported attack coincided with an article in an influential Chinese newspaper, claiming foreign meddling in Syria risked stirring up yet more bloodshed and instability in the region.
Amateur video pictures posted on the internet purport to show children caught up in the exchanges in Deraa. Details are virtually impossible to verify independently.
The city’s governor said the rebels were terrorists and drug addicts.
Military leaders denied targeting opponents with heavy weapons on the streets of Deraa, and put on display armaments they claim were being ranged against them.
With no sign of a let-up in the violence France was trying to draw up a new UN Security Council resolution with Assad’s main ally Russia, and China announced it will send a senior diplomat to Damascus to mediate in the crisis.