SYRIA PROTESTS: Government pledges reforms after deadly protests 24Mar11 March 25, 2011

Aljazeera  -  24 March 2011

Syria will “study” ending an emergency rule in place since 1963 and look into licensing political parties, a  presidential adviser has said, after a week of deadly protests in the country’s south.

“I am happy to announce to you the decisions made today by the Arab Baath party under the auspices of President Bashar al-Assad … which include … studying the possibility of lifting the emergency law and licensing political parties,” the president’s media adviser Buthaina Shaaban said at a news conference on Thursday.

The current law allows people to be arrested without warrants and imprisoned without trial.

The announcement came after one week of protests in the southern city of Daraa against Assad’s government which has left scores dead.

Rula Amin, Al Jazeera’s correspodent in the Syrian capital of Damascus, said many of the measures address demands Syrians are talking about.

“She announced a raise in salaries for all workers in the public sector and health insurance for them,” she said.

“Saying there will be a study to lift emergency law is a major step as it has been in place since 1963, as well as a new law for the media to increase transparency.

“But will this be enough? I think for some this is a good sign, others will want more measures to be undertaken immediately.”

The pledges are unlikely to satisfy demonstrators in Daraa, where thousands have been calling for liberty, defying the crackdown as they take to the streets for funeral marches on Thursday.

The presidential adviser blamed the unrest on outside agitators. Shaaban told reporters that 10 people were killed on Wednesday in what she called an attempt to target Syria because it supports resistance against Israel.

“What is being targeted is Syria’s position, Syria’s security and ability to be a pillar of resistance against Zionism and US schemes,” she said.

She said the Syrian government had no objection to peaceful protests, and claimed that demonstrators in Daraa had attacked security forces.

“The demands of the people are being studied night and day and Syria will witness important decisions that meet the ambitions of our people,” she said.

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