Assad calls election, govt troops killed in ambush

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday announced a May 7 parliamentary election, even as violence raged.

Damascus: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
on Tuesday announced a May 7 parliamentary election, even as
violence raged in flashpoint provinces and 22 regime troops
were killed in ambushes by rebel fighters.

The announcement came as UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi
Annan said he was expecting a response from Assad today to
"concrete proposals" to halt Syria`s bloodshed and Russia
stepped in with a proposal for international observers.

State news agency SANA said Assad, who has proposed a
programme of reforms in the face of an unprecedented revolt,
has set May 7 as the date for legislative elections under a
new constitution passed in a February referendum.

The elections would be the third time a legislative vote
has taken place in Syria since Assad came to power in 2000,
but the first under a multi-party system as authorised under
the new law.

Annan, speaking to reporters in Ankara after meeting with
Syria`s opposition, said he was "expecting to hear from Syrian
authorities today since I left some concrete proposals for
them to consider."

He was referring to weekend meetings in Damascus with
Assad, after which he had expressed optimism the crisis could
be resolved peacefully but warned the situation in Syria was
at a "dangerous" level.

"Once I receive their answer we will know how to react,"
the former UN chief said. "Let me say that the killings and
the violence must cease."

Annan said he had a "useful meeting" in Ankara with six
representatives of the opposition Syrian National Council
headed by Burhan Ghalioun, whom he said had "promised their
full cooperation."

Ghalioun, whose group last week rejected a call from
Annan for dialogue with Assad`s regime, said the opposition`s
priority was for a peaceful outcome to the year-long conflict.

PTI

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