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Syria pledges political reform amid protests

Opposition websites reported protests in the capital's Old City as Syrian Foreign Minister said that political reforms would be implemented this year

AFP , Tuesday 15 Mar 2011
Syrians protesters
Syrians protesters opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad regime (Photo: AP)
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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Tuesday that political reforms would be implemented this year, as opposition websites reported protests in the capital's Old City.

"We will take steps towards introducing political reforms this year," Muallem said at a news conference with his Spanish counterpart Trinidad Jimenez.

He cited a recent interview President Bashar al-Assad gave to The Wall Street Journal in which he outlined "a programme of reforms that will begin with (amendments to) laws on municipal and legislative elections."

Dozens of Syrians demonstrated in Damascus on Tuesday calling for freedom, political reforms and an end to corruption, according to opposition websites.

"God, Syria, freedom," and "Syrians, where are you?" chanted men and women in a protest that filled Hariqa souk in the heart of the Old City, according to videos posted online.

A Facebook page entitled "The Syrian revolution against Bashar al-Assad 2011," which amassed 40,000 fans, promoted anti-regime demonstrations "in all Syrian towns" on March 15.

The organisers, who say they are human rights activists from Syria and Europe with no political affiliation, called for a "revolution for liberty, justice and a diverse state."

Hariqa souk was the site in mid-February of a spontaneous protest which drew hundreds of people angered by police who allegedly assaulted a young man in the Old City, the Dubai-based all4Syria.info reported.

A Facebook group also issued a largely unanswered call for "a day of rage" on February 4 to protest against "monocracy, corruption and tyranny."

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