The Syrian government has signed off on draft legislation to end emergency rule and grant greater political freedoms. Earlier security forces opened fire to disperse a mass anti-government rally in the city of Homs.
Security forces cracked down on protesters
Syria's government has reportedly passed a raft of draft laws designed to appease the anti-government protesters and restore calm in the country.
State news agency SANA said the cabinet had ratified legislation that would end almost 50 years of emergency rule. Other measures include the abolition of a special security court, which had been criticized by human rights activists for violating basic rights, and a law to "regulate the right of peaceful protest."
President Bashar al-Assad must still sign the legislation for it to go into effect. Protesters have previously dismissed pledges by the leadership to lift the decades-long emergency law and have demanded the release of political prisoners and the end of arbitrary arrests.
The apparent concessions came after security forces opened fire on a huge gathering of anti-government protesters on Tuesday, according to several witnesses.
Thousands of protesters had gathered in the city of Homs demanding the resignation of President Assad. One activist said there was heavy gunfire, however there were no confirmed reports of the number of casualties.
The protesters had vowed to stay in the city's central square until the leadership steps down in scenes reminiscent of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt which eventually toppled those countries' respective leaders.
The latest crackdown came after the government said it would suppress what it called an "armed revolt" that was undermining the country's security. In a statement carried by the official state news agency, the interior ministry said terrorist activities would not be tolerated.
Authorities "will act with determination to impose security and stability in the country" and will "pursue the terrorists wherever they are in order to bring them to justice and end the armed revolt," the statement said.
The demonstrations have spread from the southern city of Daraa, the main hub of the protests so far. Amnesty International says at least 200 people have been killed by security forces over the past month.
Author: Rob Mudge (AP, AFP)
Editor: Michael Knigge