Syria set to end emergency rule
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Last Updated: Monday, March 28, 2011, 19:49
Damascus: Streets in Latakia, scene of Syria's latest deadly violence, were deserted on Sunday, while in Damascus President Bashar al-Assad readied to announce the end of emergency rule in place since 1963.

Funerals for a number of the victims of deadly shooting in the northern port city -- some believed to be the work of snipers -- were planned for today as schools and businesses closed their doors.

"The city is calm this morning, but the shops are all closed and employees have not gone to work," said Issam Khoury, a journalist based in Latakia, 350 kilometres northwest of Damascus.

"Most schools are closed as well and parents have decided not to send their children to any classes," added Khoury.

The government of Assad, who is now under domestic pressure unprecedented in his 11-year rule, has announced a string of reforms in a bid to quell a rising wave of dissent against his rule. He is expected to address the people of Syria in the days to come.

Buthaina Shaaban, a top adviser to Assad, yesterday said authorities had decided to end the state of emergency, which came into effect when the ruling Baath party rose to power almost 50 years ago.

But it remains unclear what the decision will entail.

"The decision to lift the emergency law has already been made. But I do not know about the time frame," Shaaban said.

Syria's emergency law imposes restrictions on public gatherings and movement and authorises the arrest of "suspects or persons who threaten security."

The law also authorises interrogation of any individual and the surveillance of personal communications as well as official control of the content of newspapers and other media before publication.

Activists estimate that some 130 people have been killed in the Syria protests, which began in Damascus on March 15 but quickly fizzled out, taking root instead in the multi-confessional city of Latakia and the southern governorate of Daraa, a tribal area on the Jordanian border.

Syrian officials say 15 people have been killed, including two insurgents, and 185 wounded in Latakia since Friday.

Troops deployed in force in the once-scenic coastal resort, home to 450,000 people, where residents have erected barricades to protect their neighbourhoods against armed gangs that have taken to looting and vandalism.

Journalists' access to Latakia has been severely restricted, but one shopkeeper contacted by AFP said residents there heard gunfire from automatic weapons until midnight on Sunday.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, March 28, 2011, 19:49

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