News / Middle East

Syria Says Voters Back New Constitution, Fresh Violence Kills 10

Syria's Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar announces the results of the referendum on a new constitution in Damascus, February 27, 2012.
Syria's Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar announces the results of the referendum on a new constitution in Damascus, February 27, 2012.

Ten people were killed by Syrian military forces killed, according to activists, as the government announced that Syrian voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that is being portrayed as a step toward democratization.

Syria's Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar told a press conference in Damascus Monday that more than eight million of Syria's 14 million registered voters turned out for Sunday's referendum and that nearly 90 percent cast ballots in favor of the new constitution.

The new document will create a multi-party system in Syria, which has been governed solely by the Baath Party since 1963, and set presidential term limits. But President Bashar al-Assad will still be very powerful.

Opposition factions boycotted the referendum, saying the only acceptable solution to Syria's crisis is for Mr. Assad to step down.

Syria Says Voters Back New Constitution, Fresh Violence Kills 10
Syria Says Voters Back New Constitution, Fresh Violence Kills 10

Meanwhile, opposition videos from the embattled city of Homs show areas were being pounded by government artillery in the 24th day of attacks. A thick cloud of smoke rose near a mosque in the Baba Amr district after what appears to be a strike from a large caliber shell.

VOA cannot confirm accounts from the video and the Syrian government is not allowing most foreign journalists into the country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it is continuing negotiations with the government to evacuate seriously wounded victims of shelling in Homs, including several foreign journalists. The Syrian Red Crescent was allowed to deliver food and medical aid to the besieged city of Hama, north of Homs.

In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers voted to impose a new series of sanctions on Syria and individuals close to Mr. Assad. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on the Syrian opposition to unite and said Europe is not supporting any particular faction.

“We work with all of the people who are trying to find a solution,” Ashton said.

Many Syrian opposition leaders are working to arm a group of military defectors known as the Free Syrian Army, said analyst Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut.

"The new group led by al-Maleh says that the work of the [opposition] Syrian National Council has proved to be ineffectual and there is a need to use a more aggressive approach in dealing with the regime in Damascus and the announcement for the new movement called for focusing on the military efforts of the Free Syrian Army,” Khashan said.

In Doha, Qatar's foreign minister called on foreign governments Monday to help arm the Free Syrian Army.

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