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Associated Press
FILE - In this Wednesday March 6, 2013 file photo, Chief of Staff of the Free Syrian Army Gen. Salim Idris addresses the media after he discussed the situation in Syria with the leader of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Guy Verhofstadt, right, at the European Parliament in Brussels. Idris marked the second anniversary of the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad on Friday, March 15, 2013, by pledging to fight until the "criminal" regime is gone. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)

BEIRUT — On the second anniversary of Syria's uprising, there were only small protests and a few firecrackers defiantly popping in the capital of Damascus — a grim contrast to the early days when crowds of demonstrators danced to the drums of rebellion against President Bashar Assad.

Syrians on Friday marked the start of the revolt by saying they feared for their country's future amid a grinding civil war that has killed tens of thousands, displaced millions, wrecked whole neighborhoods in cities and towns, and turned neighbor against neighbor.

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Assad has been digging in, mobilizing loyal forces for a protracted battle, while Western powers remain opposed to arming the Syrian opposition, even if Britain and France this week began pushing for lifting a European Union arms embargo.

Rebels have made slow progress in recent months, seizing large swaths of the countryside, particularly in the north and sparsely populated east, while Assad managed to protect his seat of power, Damascus, and keep control of parts of Aleppo and the city of Homs.

"Bashar Assad really does not feel that he is about to lose anytime soon," said Salman Shaikh, an analyst at the Brookings Doha Center. "He feels there is no Western resolve up to now. He feels he's got enough forces."