Protests continue in Syria despite Assad's promises of reform

Arab World Materials 17 April 2011 17:44 (UTC +04:00)

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Syria Sunday in the southern town of Suweida demanding more freedoms - despite a promise by President Bashar al-Assad to lift the country's 50-year old state of emergency.

Protesters marked Evacuation Day, when the French soldiers left the country 65 years ago and Syria proclamed independence, dpa reported.

However, the anti-Assad rally was also met with a group of pro- government demonstrators, who chanted "in our blood we redeem you, Bashar."

Meanwhile, the Syrian state agency SANA said Sunday that a "large quantity" of weapons had been seized at the Tanaf border crossing with Iraq, including rifles, night vision goggles, explosives and pistols.

It said officials also had recently confiscated arms shipments at border crossings with Turkey and Lebanon.

Syrian authorities have blamed "infiltrators" for stirring up unrest and aiding the opposition to protest against the regime.

On Saturday, al-Assad promised to lift the emergency law, which has been imposed on the country for almost 50 years. He said a special committee will finish a new legislation to replace the state of emergency by next week.

He said getting rid of the unpopular emergency law would be a step toward closing the gap between state institutions and citizens.