President Assad Promises To End 48 Years Of Emergency Law

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that legislation to lift 48 years of emergency law would be enacted by next week.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad delivers a speech to a new cabinet he named last week during a broadcast by Syrian state television in Damascus in this still image taken from video April 16, 2011. Assad promised on Saturday to lift 48 years of emergency law by next week but ignored popular demands to curb the security apparatus and dismantle Syria's authoritarian system.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that legislation to lift 48 years of emergency law would be enacted by next week.

However Mr Assad, whose family has ruled the Arab state with an iron fist for four decades, warned that new laws in the works would not be lenient towards what he called sabotage.

In a speech to a new cabinet he named last week, Mr Assad said stability remained his priority but said that reform was needed in Syria to "strengthen the internal front", following unprecedented protests against his authoritarian rule.

Mr Assad also expressed sorrow over the deaths of an estimated 200 people killed in months of protest demanding greater freedom.

"We are sad for all the people we have lost and all the people injured, and consider them all martyrs," he said during a pre-recorded television address to his new cabinet broadcast on Saturday.

President Assad swore in his newly appointed Prime Minister Adel Safar and the rest of the cabinet on Saturday [AFP]

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

"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 Syrian people are respectable. They love the regime and reject chaos."

He also called for a national dialogue to find the best model that suits the country, and 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, Mr 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.

Two men with the fingers painted in the colours of the Syrian flag show the V-sign as they pose in front of a huge image of President Bashar al-Assad during a rally by thousands supporters for their leader who is facing unprecedented domestic pressure amid a wave of dissent, in central Damascus on March 29, 2011.

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."

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.

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.

About 2,000 women also rallied "in favour of liberty and in homage of the martyr," in the city centre.

Prime Minister Adel Safar on Thursday unveiled his new cabinet, which is expected to carry out broad reforms.

On Friday, tens of thousands of people rallied to demand greater freedoms, exactly one month after a rare protest was staged in Damascus calling for the release of political prisoners.

Telegraph