Syrian reforms a sham, U.S. says

April 27, 2011 at 2:36 PM
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UNITED NATIONS, April 27 (UPI) -- Decisions by Damascus to lift a state of emergency and make laws regarding the right to peaceful protests were a sham, a U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.

Syrian President Bashar Assad in an apparent attempt to appease protester demands sacked his Cabinet, passed a law describing the right to protest, dismantled a controversial security agency and lifted a state of emergency in place since the 1960s.

Nevertheless, armed forces were reportedly out in the streets attacking unarmed demonstrators demanding more political concessions.

With foreign media barred from covering the events, however, the narrative varies. International outlets are relying on amateur accounts that appear to show soldiers firing on protesters though Syrian media blames the violence on thugs and outsiders.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Damascus was "clearly not serious" about reform given the violent state of affairs in the country.

"The United States is currently pursuing a range of possible policy options, including additional targeted sanctions, to respond to the crackdown and make clear that this behavior is unacceptable," she said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Syria calling on U.S. citizens to get out of the country by commercial means while they still can.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a late Tuesday appeal, called for an end to the violence in Syria and British Foreign Secretary William Hague was quoted as saying by The Independent newspaper in London that it's "not too late" for Assad to change course.

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