Syrians show ‘strong’ back in referendum
DAMASCUSAround 89 percent of Syrians approved a new constitution, proposed by President Bashar al-Assad while nine percent rejected it in a referendum on Feb. 26, state television said yesterday.
Constitutional reforms are aimed at quelling the growing rebellion against the al-Assad family’s 42 years in power. Less than two percent of ballots were ruled invalid. It put turnout at 57 percent of eligible voters. In a press conference, Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar said that that 8,376,447 citizens voted, which constitutes 57.4 percent of the 14,589,954 eligible voters. Syria’s main opposition groups boycotted the vote, and violence elsewhere prevented polling. The new constitution allows for the formation of competing political parties and limits the president to two seven-year terms, according to Syrian state media. As polling took place on Feb. 26, a Britain-based watchdog reported new violence across the country that killed at least 34 civilians, mostly in the flashpoint central region of Homs, and 23 regime forces.
Aid delivered to Hama
Meanwhile, the Red Cross teams reached Hama for the first time in more than a month yesterday, delivering food and other goods to the central Syrian city battered by a military crackdown. Hicham Hassan, an International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman, said a joint team of the ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent brought an emergency delivery of food and other items for 12,000 people. He said it was the first time the aid group has been able to enter Hama since Jan. 17. Also, Poland said its diplomats are working to get wounded Western journalists evacuated from the Syrian city of Homs and the bodies of a U.S. journalist and a French photographer out of the country.
Compiled from Reuters and AP stories by the Daily News staff.