Syrian government passes new political parties law

AMMAN Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:23am BST

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AMMAN (Reuters) - The Syrian cabinet has approved a law that allows the formation of political parties other than the ruling Baath party, provided they adhere to "democratic principles," the state news agency said on Monday.

The Baath party, which has banned opposition groups since a l963 military coup, has been under pressure to abandon its monopoly on power during a four-month uprising that has called for the toppling of President Bashar al-Assad.

"The establishment of any party has to be based on ... a commitment to the constitution, democratic principles, the rule of law and a respect for freedom and basic rights," the state news agency SANA said, referring to conditions to be met by parties that want to apply for a licence to operate legally.

Yasser Saadeldine, an Syrian opposition figure living in exile in the Gulf, said the new law "is designed to show on paper that the regime tolerates dissent while continuing killings and repression."

"Every time the regime comes under international pressure it takes more false reform measures to try and appear as having democratic credentials. But arrests of activists continue and the crackdown deepens," Saadeldine said.

(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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