Syria's emergency law to end, says Assad

Syria's emergency law to end, says Assad

"The juridical commission on the emergency law has prepared a series of proposals for new legislation, and these proposals will be submitted to the government, which will issue a new law within a week at the most," he said.

The emergency law, in force since 1963, imposes restrictions on public gatherings and movement, authorises the interrogation of any individual and the monitoring of private communications and imposes media censorship.

In a televised address to the new cabinet recorded earlier in the day, Assad also expressed his sorrow over the deaths of an estimated 200 people killed in a month of protests across Syria demanding greater freedoms.

"We are sad for all the people we have lost and all the people injured, and consider them all martyrs," he said in his address to a new government tasked with launching reforms after protests demanding greater freedoms snowballed.

"The Syrian people are respectable. They love the regime and reject chaos," Assad said, and called for a national dialogue to find the best model that suits the country.

Assad also spoke of what he called the gulf "between citizens and the institutions of the state, a gulf that must quickly be filled."

"Citizens need security and services, but also dignity. We want to engage in dialogue with the unions and with national organisations."

In addition to the emergency law, Assad also addressed the wide range of complaints that have brought people to the streets across Syria for more than a month, such as joblessness, corruption and a crisis in agriculture.

"Corruption is a threat to morality and to the country's potential for development," he said.

On unemployment, which he acknowledged to be high even by Arab standards, he said that "when people feel the horizon is limited, they feel depression; and this depression can lead to despair."

Assad added that the world economic crisis had made the role of the state "more important," emphasising the need to support the "small entrepreneur and not large business" and to "improve the connection of markets, not only between people but between cities."

Earlier, thousands of people attended the funeral of a man who died after being shot by regime agents in the northwestern coastal city of Banias, witnesses and activists said.
The mourners chanted slogans in favour of greater freedoms and against the ruling Baath party, and some also called for an end to the regime, the sources told AFP.