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Syria's President Announces Reform Measures

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addresses the nation during a speech at the Parliament in Damascus, Syria, March 30, 2011

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has announced reform measures, including the creation of a committee to study the possibility of lifting the country's emergency law.

Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, said Thursday the committee will complete its study by April 25.

Lifting the emergency law has been a key demand of protesters carrying out anti-government rallies in recent weeks.

SANA also reported that Mr. Assad called for the creation of a committee to study civilian and military deaths in the cities of Daraa and Latakia.

Those cities have been centers of opposition activity in the past two weeks. Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 61 people have been killed in clashes since the unrest began.

On Thursday, the United States urged Americans in Syria to avoid going to Daraa and Latakia, and to nearby towns and cities. The State Department also advised U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Syria.

President Assad's latest moves may be an attempt to head off massive opposition protests planned for Friday.

In a speech on Wednesday addressing the protests, Mr. Assad did did not mention changing Syria's 50-year-old emergency law, which restricts opposition gatherings. He said foreigners and social media have created a "conspiracy" to bring down his government.

The opposition rallies have represented the most serious threat to Mr. Assad's 11-year rule, and to the longstanding authority of his family. The president has said there is "chaos" in the country under the pretext of reform.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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