Syrian government promises reform after bloody crackdown

Arab World Materials 1 May 2011 02:29 (UTC +04:00)
The Syrian government promised a "comprehensive plan for reforms" on Saturday after a violent crackdown on pro-democracy activists have killed an estimated 70 plus people over the past two days, dpa reported.
Syrian government promises reform after bloody crackdown

The Syrian government promised a "comprehensive plan for reforms" on Saturday after a violent crackdown on pro-democracy activists have killed an estimated 70 plus people over the past two days, dpa reported.

Prime Minister Adel Safar said the government is planning "a comprehensive plan for the aspired political, security and judicial as well as economic reforms in the coming weeks," the official SANA news agency reported.

Safar announced that three committees of well-qualified administrative, technical and legal staffs will be formed to draw up the tracks of reforms. The cabinet also agreed on a proposal aimed at creating more job opportunities at private sector companies.

The statement comes amid reports of continuous crackdown on protesters, who took to the streets last month calling for greater freedoms, reforms, and - increasing - the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.

Prominent activist Hazem al-Nahar has been detained since Thursday when he was summoned to a security station, seven local rights groups said in a joint statement on Saturday.

The statement named a further 65 people arrested in difference cities across the country.

Several people, including women, were arrested during a protest in Damascus, activists said online, adding that thousands took to the streets in Banias city in support of people in Daraa, where more troops and around 20 tanks were deployed early Saturday.

At least four people were reported dead in the latest violence in the city, which has become the centre of anti-government protests and a violent government crackdown.

"We are totally besieged. It is a tragedy. Many houses are levelled by shelling from the army. For the past six days we haven't seen an ambulance," one witness told Al Jazeera broadcaster, with sounds of gunshots heard as he spoke.

Supporters of al-Assad have repeatedly accused the Qatari-based channel of "lies" and "exaggeration" in its coverage to the unrest in Syria.

The military deployment came one day after 62 people were killed when protesters took to the streets on Friday demanding greater freedoms and shouting slogans against al-Assad.

The Syrian observatory for Human Rights said that 33 were killed Friday in the southern city of Daraa and 27 in Homs. Two more were killed in Lattakia and Adlb.

Seven members of the police and army were also killed.

The protesters had defied a government warning and held "unauthorised" demonstrations in more than a dozen Syrian towns and cities, including the capital, Damascus.

There was no way to obtain independent confirmation of the casualty figures. Amid the violence, Syrian authorities have banned foreign journalists from entering Syria, with the government blaming the unrest on what it calls conspirators.

Syrian television has aired several interviews of people saying they are confessing that they were given money and weapons from different people in Daraa, or in another case were asked to take pictures of protests and send them abroad.

Syria has faced international condemnation over a violent crackdown as opposition groups estimate the death toll since mid- March at 600.

The European Union on Friday issued a fresh warning to the Syrian government to stop the bloody repression while signalling that it might target Damascus with sanctions.

The United States has already imposed new sanctions on al-Assad's regime. The action freezes any holding in the US and bans US citizens from engaging in business with senior officials in al-Assad's government.

Al-Assad became a president in 2000, following the death of his father Hafiz al-Assad.