BEIRUT ( AP) — Syrian troops battled army defectors in a string of towns in the mountains overlooking Damascus today in a new assault to crush rebellious areas around the capital, activists said.

The battles in a mountain valley came after regime forces succeeded in largely retaking control of suburbs on the eastern side of the city in an offensive the past week that fueled some of the bloodiest days of the nearly 11- month-old uprising.

Activists say President Bashar Assad’s forces have intensified their crackdown in hopes of silencing protesters and the army dissidents who have joined them as the United Nations Security Council debates a draft resolution demanding that Assad step down.

On Tuesday, Western powers and Arab countries at the U.N. sought to overcome Russia’s opposition to the measure. Addressing the Security Council, U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to allay Moscow’s concerns that the resolution could open the door to eventual military intervention in Syria, as took place in Libya last year.

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