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AL ARABIYA (Saudi Arabia), FRANCE 24, LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR (France)

PARIS - Syria appears set to descend into all-out civil war, as pressure from the international community heightens following allegations of a new massacre in the central province of Hama.

United Nations observers are attempting to reach the town of Al Koubeir to investigate the latest alleged massacre, which may have killed 55 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said observers were prevented from accessing the town on Thursday after being shot at.

Protests agains Bashar al-Assad's regime continue today. The regime has denied reports that it was responsible for the Al Koubeir massacre. Meanwhile, exclusive Al Arabiya footage from yesterday showed repeated bombing of the city of Homs.

Diplomats expressed their growing concern about the Syrian crisis, according to France's Journal de Dimanche. Ban Ki-Moon stressed the seriousness of the situation in a press conference with special envoy Kofi Annan on Thursday night. "The danger of a civil war is imminent and real," said the U.N. Secretary General.

Annan told the U.N. General Assembly that he was "horrified" by the massacres but he also indicated that a "contact group" to negotiate with the regime was being formed. Annan is meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington D.C. today to discuss the situation.

A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said that China "strongly condemns' the death of innocent civilians and calls for perpetrators to be brought to justice, but stopped short of blaming Damascus specifically. Russia and China have repeatedly opposed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the ruling regime's violence.

Evidence of past massacres in the Deir Baaba neigborhood of Homs have also surfaced through French television network France 24, which is in contact with activists on the ground. A series of experts interviewed by French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur offered potential solutions to the conflict, ranging from reinforcing the existing Annan peace plan to arming the rebel Free Syrian Army.

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*David Never

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