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Syria announces to hold parliamentary elections amid ongoing violence

03-14-2012 15:27 BJT Special Report:Crisis in Syria |

DAMASCUS, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday issued a decree to hold parliamentary elections on May 7 amid escalating tensions between the government and opposition.

The 250-seat parliament's term expired in March 2011 but has been extended in accordance with the country's new constitution, which has been approved recently in a national referendum.

In July 2011, the Syrian cabinet endorsed a general elections bill as part of the government's reform program to quell the bloody unrest.

The bill aims to regulate the election of parliamentary delegates and local council members and to ensure the integrity of the electoral progress. It also stipulates the formation of the Supreme Commission for Elections to supervise the election process.

Assad's announcement of new parliamentary elections came as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a UN-Arab League special envoy, said he was waiting for reply from the Syrian government to his proposals on solving the Syrian crisis.

"I am expecting to hear from Syrian authorities today since I left some concrete proposals for them to consider. Once I received their answer we'll know how to react," Annan said Tuesday in Ankara after a two-day visit to Syria.

In talks with Assad last Sunday, Annan discussed ways to immediately end the ongoing violence in the country, to allow access of humanitarian agencies for delivery of aid, and to start political dialogues.

The announcement of elections was also coupled with unabating violence.

Gunmen attacked a vehicle of army officers with a barrage of bullets in a suburb of the northern province of Aleppo, Syria's second largest city that remained relatively calm during the year-long crisis.

Separately, Syrian troops evacuated a two-story building in northern Idlib province after they found an explosive device planted.

Meanwhile, government forces clashed with armed groups in central Hama province, killing a number of gunmen and injuring three law-enforcement members.

The United Nations said recently that more than 7,500 people had died in Syria since the violence began a year ago, while the Syrian government said "armed terrorist groups" had killed more than 2,000 army and security personnel during the unrest.

However, Assad's announcement immediately met with strong criticism from Washington, which dismissed it as "ridiculous."

"Elections for a rubber-stamp parliament in the middle of the kind of violence that we are seeing across the country, it's ridiculous," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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