Syrian president ready for constitutional referendum

February 8th, 2012 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Feb 8 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will declare a date in the near future for a referendum on a new constitution for his country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said following talks with the Syrian leader in Damascus.

“President Assad said that in the next few days, he will meet with a commission which has prepared a new constitution project. This work is complete, now a time will be announced for the referendum for this document which is so important to Syria,” Lavrov said Tuesday.

Al-Assad is ready for dialogue with all political forces in the country, and also ready to make talks happen, Lavrov said.

“It’s clear that effort to stop use of force must coincide with a declaration of dialoge between all political forces. Today (Tuesday) we have received confirmation of the Syrian President’s readiness to work toward this task,” he added.

Lavrov’s visit, together with Russian Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov, came three days after Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the violent crackdown in Syria.

Lavrov had not previously revealed the purpose of his mission, telling a news conference in Moscow Monday that it would be “unveiled only to the addressee”.

Ahead of the visit, he said the UN Security Council was too “hasty” in bringing the resolution to a vote and described Western condemnation of Moscow’s veto as “hysterical”.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the Russian and Chinese vetoes as a “fiasco” and said his country was preparing a new initiative.

“We will start a new initiative with those countries who stand by the Syrian people, not the regime,” Erdogan said at a meeting of his ruling AK Party in Ankara.

Human rights groups say more than 7,000 people have died in Syria since the uprising began in March last year. The government says around 2,000 members of its security forces have been killed in the unrest.

EU foreign police chief Catherine Ashton said Tuesday EU foreign ministers would meet in two weeks to discuss ways to stop violence in Syria.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the violence in Syria was “totally unacceptable before humanity”.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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