Al-Assad sets general elections for May 7

Al-Assad sets general elections for May 7

Al-Assad sets general elections for May 7

Syrian police opened fire on the Kurdish protesters who flooded Qamishli on March 12 to mark the 8th anniversary of clashes with security forces. AFP photo

Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree yesterday setting May 7 as the date for parliamentary elections that were delayed last year, the state news agency SANA reported.

The vote is part of a raft of reforms announced by al-Assad in a bid to calm a year-long uprising against his regime. Al-Assad’s announcement comes as peace envoy Kofi Annan said he was awaiting a response from the Syrian leader on “concrete proposals” which he had submitted to him in two rounds of talks in Damascus at the weekend.

The elections would be the third time a legislative vote has taken place in Syria since al-Assad came to power in 2000. The last parliamentary poll in 2007 saw the National Progressive Front -- a coalition led by al-Assad’s Baath Party -- seize, as expected, the majority of the 250 seats in the assembly. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday Russia will press Syria to accept international monitors who could observe the implementation of a “simultaneous” ceasefire between government troops and rebels.

Russian arms support
Russia came under strong pressure from the U.S. and European powers on March 12 to force its Soviet-era ally to halt a year-long crackdown that has claimed more than 8,000 lives. However, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Russia will abide by existing contracts to deliver weapons to Syria. “Russia enjoys good and strong military technical cooperation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it,” Antonov told reporters. Antonov also reiterates that Russia’s supply of weapons to Syria is in line with international law.

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff