Syria′s Assad calls parliamentary elections | News | DW | 13.03.2012
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Syria's Assad calls parliamentary elections

Syria's president has called parliamentary elections in May as violence continues to rage around the country and tens of thousands flee their homes in search of cross-border sanctuary.

According to state news agency SANA, President Bashar al-Assad set May 7 as the date for legislative polls under a new constitution passed in a February referendum which allowed for multiple party elections.

The new constitution and the upcoming poll were rejected by opposition groups, however, amid continued calls for Assad to step aside.

"Of course we will boycott the elections because they will be fixed. But this is not a main focus for us. What we want is real change with a real presidential election, which Assad would surely lose," Melhem al-Droubi, a member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and the Syrian National Council told news agency Reuters by telephone.

The United States was quick to label the promise of parliamentary elections as "ridiculous," according to news agency AFP.

The announcement comes only days after joint United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, left Damascus saying he had presented Assad with a number of "concrete proposals for them to consider."

"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."

Borders mined

Meanwhile, a prominent rights group said Tuesday that Syrian forces had laid landmines along the borders with Lebanon and Turkey in an apparent attempt at stemming the flow of refugees fleeing conflict hotspots around the country.

Watch video 01:38

UN split over Syria

In a report released on Tuesday, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch cited witnesses and Syrian mine clearers who said the devices had been placed along routes being used by refugees trying to escape the violence. At least one civilian is reported to have been wounded after stepping on one of the mines.

"Any use of anti-personnel mines is unconscionable," Steve Goose, HRW's arms director said. "There is absolutely no justification for the use of these indiscriminate weapons by any country, for any purpose."

Syria reportedly started placing the mines along its border with Turkey over the past few weeks. The first report of mines being used along its frontier with Lebanon came in November 2011, when a government official told an Associated Press reporter that Syria had "undertaken many measures to control the borders, including planting mines."

Syria is not a signatory to the Ottawa Treaty of 1997, which bans the use of anti-personnel mines.

According to UN estimates, some 30,000 people have fled to neighboring countries since the unrest in Syria began around one year ago. The UN says that more than 7,500 people have been killed during the violence.

dfm/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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