Calgary Herald

Syrian leader’s reform pledge sparks countrywid­e protests

- Borzou Daragahi

Thousands of anti-government demonstrat­ors took to the streets Monday immediatel­y after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad delivered his first public address in two months, a speech promising political reforms but offering no concrete steps toward democracy demanded by a burgeoning protest movement.

Facing internatio­nal and domestic pressure for rapid change, the embattled president left open the possibilit­y for changes to Syria’s fourdecade-old constituti­on, which limits civil liberties and guarantees his Baath party a near monopoly on power.

Minutes after al-Assad concluded his remarks to an adoringcro­wdatanaudi­torium of Damascus University, fresh calls for freedom and an end the 48-year-old Baath party regimeerup­tedindozen­sofcities and towns around the country, including Homs, Latakia, Deir Azour, Idleb and Hama as well as suburbs of Damascus.

 ??  ?? Bashar al-assad
Bashar al-assad

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