Syria Says Voters Back New Constitution, Fresh Violence Kills 10

Posted February 27th, 2012 at 10:40 am (UTC-5)
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Activists say Syrian military forces killed 10 people Monday while the government announced that Syrian voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that Syrian leaders portray as a step toward democratization.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of the casualties occurred in fresh shelling in a Sunni neighborhood in the central city of Homs that has been under attack for more than three weeks. At least 40 people have died in violence across the country since Sunday in a continuing crackdown on anti-government dissent.

Syria's interior ministry announced that nearly 90 percent of voters approved a new constitution in a referendum on Sunday despite a boycott by government opponents.

Interior minister Mohammed al-Shaar said the turnout was 57.4 percent of eligible voters with nearly 8.4 million ballots cast,

The new document will create a multi-party system in Syria, which has been governed solely by the Baath Party since 1963, and set presidential term limits. But even if it passes, President Assad will still be very powerful.

Opposition factions say the only acceptable solution to Syria's crisis is for President Assad to step down.

Western governments rejected the referendum as a farce, but both China and Russia welcomed it Monday.

Russia and China recently blocked the U.N. Security Council from tougher actions against Mr. Assad's government.

European Union foreign ministers imposed new sanctions on Syria's central bank on Monday and froze the assets of several Syrian government officials. The bloc already has blacklisted nearly 150 other Syrian entities and people.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Human Rights Council is scheduled to hold an urgent meeting on the crisis in Syria.

U.N.-appointed investigators estimate the death toll from the uprising at 6,400 civilians and 1,680 army defectors. Syrian officials have said they only took military action when under armed attack from “terrorists.”