Syria's Assad orders constitution vote

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Syria's Assad orders constitution vote

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President Bashar Assad has offered to hold multi-party elections within four months.

It comes after he promised a referendum on a new constitution on February 26th.

The proposed draft will remove the article of the constitution that describes Assad’s Baath Party as the “leader of state and society.”

The offer has been received sceptically by opposition parties and rebels.

An amateur video shot in the central city of Homs appears to show rebels responding to shelling by government troops.

Homs has been under heavy artillery fire for two weeks and hundreds of people have been killed, according to activists.

Amid the gunfire, the West continues to step up the diplomatic pressure on the Syrian regime.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé told the European Parliament that he believed Assad would eventually be forced from power.

He also rejected any comparision between the actions of armed rebels and government-backed repression.

“Most of the protesters in Homs or elsewhere are fighting with their bare hands,” Juppé said. The responsibility for any aggression lies clearly with the regime.”

The UN General Assembly will vote on a non-binding resolution on Syria later on Thursday.
The text was drawn up by Saudi and Qatari diplomats.

It backs an Arab League demand that Assad steps down and calls for the naming of a special UN envoy.

Russia and China vetoed a similar resolution at the UN Security Council on February 4th
Both countries say they are opposed to regime change.