Baath party backers rally in Damascus

AFP , Saturday 7 Apr 2012

Thousands of demonstrators turned out in the Syrian capital to show their backing for President Bashar al-Assad's ruling Baath party on the 65th anniversary of its creation

An AFP journalist said government supporters gathered in the central Sabaa Bahrat Square, waving the red, black and green national flag and portraits of Assad as patriotic music blared from loudspeakers.

"God, Syria and Bashar -- that's all," and "Shabiha (regime militiamen) for life, for you Assad" were among the slogans they chanted.

One young woman stood on a platform put up for the rally and shouted: "They called it a revolution and they are massacring people," referring to the rebels battling Assad's regime. Supporters of the president also chanted "Death to Israel!" amid a sea of giant Baath party flags.

The official SANA news agency reported similar demonstrations in other cities that "expressed the Syrian people, army and leadership's steadfastness in the face of the conspiracy hatched against Syria."

It said the rallies also rejected "foreign interference in Syria's internal affairs" and support for "the comprehensive reform programme."

The United Nations says the Syrian government's year-long crackdown on dissent has killed more than 9,000 people. Monitors put the number of dead at more than 10,000.

In February, state media hailed as a "victory for Syria" the adoption by referendum of a new constitution ending the Baath party's monopoly on power but leaving extensive powers in Assad's hands.

Officials said 89.4 percent of voters backed the new charter from a turnout of 57.4 percent.

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