Thu, Oct 13, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Syrian president plans to write new constitution: official

AFP, DAMASCUS

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad plans to create a new constitution, a top ruling party official said on Tuesday, as China joined long-time ally Russia in pressing for prompt reforms in a country riven by a deadly crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

The death toll, already topping 2,900, according to UN calculations, rose further on Tuesday, with three people shot dead in the central city of Homs and another man dying of wounds sustained there a day earlier, activists said.

A senior official in the ruling Baath party, Mohammed Said Bkheitan, said Assad was to “decide within two days the creation of a committee to prepare a new Constitution.”

The committee was set to complete its work by the end of the year, with the new document requiring a two-thirds approval of the Assad-dominated parliament and then being submitted to a referendum, Bkheitan was quoted by the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper as saying.

China on Tuesday urged Syria to move faster to implement reforms, a week after Beijing and Moscow infuriated the West by blocking a proposed UN Security Council resolution against Assad’s deadly crackdown.

“We believe the Syrian government should move faster to honor its reform pledges and swiftly start to push forward the inclusive political process with the broad participation of all parties in Syria,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin (劉為民) said.

This was the first time that China has veered from its long-standing policy of non-interference in the affairs of Syria, which has been rocked by anti-government protests and violence since mid-March.

Liu’s comments came as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Beijing.

On Friday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had told Assad either to reform or resign, while warning the West that Russia will fight attempts to oust him.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow and Beijing were ready to propose a new UN resolution on Syria that would condemn violence carried out both by Assad’s regime and the opposition.

The Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Tuesday warned Syria, one of its 57 members, about the consequences of its continued use of force.

Secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said this would “only lead to more violence and bloodshed, thus exacerbating the crisis and making it more complex.”

On Sunday, Assad again renewed a pledge of reforms, having made numerous promises since the unrest broke out.

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