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      Assad Allows New Political Parties

      Assad decrees that new political parties could be formed, but is anyone buying it?
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 8/5/2011, 8:30 AM

      Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday issued a new legislative decree that will allow for the formation of new political parties, but his opponents are not buying it and the violence in the country rages on.

      The government-run SANA news agency reported that the decree would allow a new party to be formed as long as certain guidelines are followed. Among these guidelines are requirements that the party be committed to the constitution, the principles of democracy and the rule of law and not be based on a religious, tribal, regional, denominational, or profession-related basis.

      The decree in essence turned into law a measure approved by the cabinet several days ago. While the law appears to be democratic, the Syrian constitution in its current form guarantees the supremacy of Assad’s Baath Party. As such, a new party which is “committed to the constitution” essentially guarantees the continuation of Assad’s rule.

      Syrian opposition activists were not buying Assad’s moves, telling the Al-Arabiya network it is too late for any efforts to bridge the gap between the regime and the protesters.

      London-based political analyst Nadhim Shehadah also dismissed the new measure, telling Voice of America it is nothing but “tricks of the trade” designed to “confuse the international community.” Shehadah said most Syrians do not believe the measures are feasible.

      The latest measure came a day after the UN Security Council condemned the Syrian government for its deadly crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

      The council said in a statement it “condemns the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.”

      But as Assad promised reforms, the violence continued to rage throughout Syria, especially in the city of Hama which has been under siege since Sunday. Activists said more than 130 people have been killed across Syria in the last four days, most of them in Hama.

      Clinton, Canadian Counterpart Condemn
      U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned Assad for the continued violence on Thursday, repeating an earlier statement that the United States believed he lost legitimacy in Syria.

      “We’ve seen the Assad regime continue and intensify its assault against its own people this week,” the BBC quoted Clinton as having said. “We think to date the government is responsible for the deaths of more than 2,000 people of all ages.”

      She added that the U.S. and its allies were working to apply more pressure on Syria, beyond the addition of more individuals to a sanctions blacklist, a step which the U.S. announced on Thursday.

      Clinton made the comments after a meeting with her Canadian counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

      Baird told reporters, “The situation in Syria, the actions of the Assad regime, are obviously abhorrent. The way they’ve acted in recent weeks, months, even in the last 48 hours in Hama, is absolutely disgraceful.”