Damascus: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
plans to create a new constitution, a top ruling party official said, as China joined long-time ally Russia in pressing for prompt reforms in a country driven by a deadly crackdown on anti-regime protesters.
The death toll, already topping 2,900, according to UN
calculations, rose further yesterday, with three people shot
dead in the central city of Homs and another man dying of
wounds sustained there a day earlier, activists said.
Mohammed Said Bkheitan, a senior official in the ruling
Baath party, said Assad will "decide within two days the
creation of a committee to prepare a new constitution."
The committee will complete its work by year end, with
the new document requiring a two-thirds approval of the
Assad-dominated parliament and then being submitted to a
referendum, Bkheitan was quoted by the pro-government Al-Watan
newspaper as saying.
China yesterday urged Syria to move faster to implement
reforms, a week after Beijing and Moscow infuriated the West
by blocking a proposed UN Security Council resolution against
Assad`s deadly crackdown.
"We believe the Syrian government should move faster to
honour its reform pledges and swiftly start to push forward
the inclusive political process with the broad participation
of all parties in Syria," foreign ministry spokesman Liu
This was the first time that China has veered from its
long-standing policy of non-interference in the affairs of
Syria, which has been rocked by anti-government protests and
violence since mid-March.
Liu`s comments came as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin visited Beijing.
On Friday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had told
Assad either to reform or resign, while warning the West that
Russia will fight outside attempts to oust him.
Medvedev said he wanted to see an end to the crackdown as
much as Europe and the United States.
"Russia wants as much as the other countries for Syria to
end the bloodshed and demands that the Syrian leadership
conduct the necessary reforms," Medvedev said.
"If the Syrian leadership is unable to undertake these
reforms, it will have to go," he said in one of his strongest
public comments on the crisis.
But he quickly reasserted Russia`s earlier position by
saying that the best the West could do was support talks and