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Syria opens door to formal opposition?

July 25, 2011 at 12:05 PM

DAMASCUS, Syria, July 25 (UPI) -- A bill backed by the Syrian government revitalizes political activity in the country by permitting the development of new political parties, a minister said.

Legislation introduced in Damascus opens the door for the establishment of new political parties in Syria. The bill says any new party must have at least 1,000 members, have an open membership and not include the establishment of a paramilitary force in its charter, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reports.

Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said the bill established the legal foundation for a pluralistic political system in Syria, SANA adds.

The measure, which includes several strict provisions, includes a commitment by new parties to the constitution and independence from non-Syrian political entities. The measure in essence reverses a ban on formal opposition to the ruling Baath Party, in power since the 1970s.

The official news agency described the bill as part of a sweeping reform process. The measure needs approval from the Syrian Parliament before becoming law.

Opposition leaders have called for a repeal of a constitutional measure that says the Baath Party is the only legitimate authority in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has rolled out a series of reform measures that Damascus says targets protesters' demands. Though the U.N. Security Council has been quite on the issue, Washington and its European allies expressed reservation over Assad's claims, pointing to the steady assault on civilian demonstrators.

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