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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syrians to Vote on New Constitution on February 26

RIA Novosti

15:07 15/02/2012 MOSCOW, February 15 (RIA Novosti) - Syria will hold a referendum on a new constitution on February 26, according to a decree issued on Wednesday by President Bashar al-Assad, the official Sana news agency reported.

The draft constitution is designed to guarantee “the dignity of the Syrian citizen and secures his basic rights” and aims to “turn Syria into an example to follow in terms of public freedoms and political plurality,” the report said.

Syrian state television reported that the draft constitution did not stipulate that early presidential elections be held in the country. Assad’s second term in office is due to end in 2014. Under the draft, “the current president will be able to put forward his candidacy [for the elections] again,” the report said.

Assad was quoted as saying in the report that the new constitution would help Syria “achieve what we all aspire to in terms of developing our country to draw a brilliant future for the next generations.”

The committee in charge of drafting the legislation submitted its copy to Assad on Sunday, the report said, adding that the document would be sent to the Syrian People's Assembly before the vote.

Assad set up the committee to draft the new constitution in October, some seven months into a popular uprising against his family’s 40-year authoritarian rule. The vote was initially scheduled to take place in March.

In July, Syria passed a law allowing for a multi-party political system. Under the present constitution, Assad's Baath party is designated as "the leader of the state and society".

The announcement comes as both Western and Arab nations increased their pressure on the Assad regime, calling for an immediate end to bloodshed in Syria, which according to UN estimates has claimed more than 5,400 lives.

Syrian rights groups say the Syrian government has mounted its crackdown on protesters, with dozens of people reported to have been killed by regime forces over the past few weeks. Damascus has blamed the violence on “armed terrorist groups” backed by foreign powers seeking regime change in Syria, saying that more than 2,000 police and security forces have been killed in the unrest. The accounts are difficult to verify because foreign media access to the county is strictly limited.



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