Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shot dead five protesters after Friday prayers, on a second day of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria.
Syrians took to the streets across the country in small demonstrations, trusting that the two-day-old truce that is meant to lead to political dialogue would protect them from the army bullets that have frightened off peaceful protesters for months.
Activists said security forces came out in strength in many cities to prevent protesters mounting major rallies against Assad, even though the plan of UN-Arab League envoy Annan says the government should have pulled its troops back.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the anti-Assad Local Coordination Committees said two people were killed as marchers tried to converge on a central square in the city of Hama.
Soldiers also shot one person dead as worshippers left a mosque in Nawa in the southern province of Deraa, where the uprising began in March 2011. Security forces killed a fourth in the town of Salqeen in the northwestern province of Idlib, opposition activists said, and a fifth died in Deraya, Damascus province.
However, Syria's state news agency SANA blamed two of the deaths on the opposition, saying an "armed terrorist group" shot dead the man in Salqeen and attributing the death of one Hama protester to a shot fired by a fellow demonstrator.
International pressure has grown for Syria to fulfil all its commitments to the former UN chief Kofi Annan by withdrawing troops and heavy weapons, permitting humanitarian and media access, releasing prisoners and discussing a political transition.
The UN Security Council met today to vote on a US-drafted resolution which calls for an initial deployment of up to 30 unarmed UN observers.
But Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, presented his own draft, casting doubt on Western plans for the Security Council to vote on a resolution.
Churkin came up with his own draft. "We have put together a shorter version of (the U.S.) text," he told reporters. "We had this understanding yesterday that it should be to the point, pragmatic, specific about putting in boots on the ground, (an) advance party of the monitoring team."
It was not clear if the Council would be able to agree on a single text that could be voted immediately. One council diplomat said he doubted the vote would come before Saturday.