DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Though violence continued Wednesday in Syria, the government said it was planning a national referendum for a new constitution on Feb. 26.
Syrian forces continued their siege on the restive city of Homs, leaving at least nine people dead, al-Jazeera reports, citing Syrian opposition groups.
U.N. officials had said the conflict in the country was taking on a sectarian tone, warning the crisis was moving closer to civil war.
Nevertheless, Syria announced through its state-run news service that President Bashar Assad called for a Feb. 26 national referendum on a new draft constitution.
Parliamentary elections would come within 90 days of the constitution's approval.
The draft doesn't contain any clause that would establish the Baath Party as the ruling authority, the Arab broadcaster reports. Anas al-Abdah, a Syrian revolutionary leader, told the BBC the draft constitution was a ruse by the government meant to consolidate its grip on power.
The U.N. Security Council has been silenced on Syria by Chinese and Russian vetoes.
The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, for its part, said it was deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria. The OIC said it was working on a solution to address what it described as a "dire situation."