by our Arab Affairs correspondent
RUSSIA and China have endorsed the Syrian government’s referendum which overwhelmingly approved a new constitution to meet the genuine demands on the street for democratic renewal.
The Chinese government welcomed the poll and called on the international community to fully respect Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity while the Russian Foreign Ministry said the results of last Sunday’s vote clearly indicate that the government of President Bashar al Assad enjoyed popular support while showing that the opposition groups had no right to speak on behalf of the Syrian people.
The new constitution includes 14 new and 47 amended articles. The reforms put forward by President Assad are designed to stop the bloody uprising and pave the way for free elections in the country. Reactionary Muslim Brotherhood gunmen and other terror gangs armed and funded by US-led imperialism and the feudal Arab oil princes called on their followers to boycott the vote and disrupt the proceedings. Nevertheless 57 per cent of the electorate took part in the vote and 89 per cent cast their vote in favour of the draft constitution.
The referendum has been a defeat for the imperialists and their stooges and they have predictably dismissed it as a farce. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it “a cynical ploy” and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called it as a “sham vote”. This week the European Union widened its economic embargo on Syria to include an asset freeze on officials and a ban on importing precious metals and minerals from the country.
Meanwhile Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva stormed out of the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday after angrily calling on the Nato bloc to stop “inciting sectarianism and providing arms” to opposition forces in his country.
Faysal Al-Hamwi pointed out the negative effects of unilateral and unjust economic sanctions imposed by some countries against the Syrian people, hindered the procurement of medicine, vaccine, food and fuel and hindered banking transactions used to purchase these materials.
‘’Unilateral economic sanctions are the ugliest violations of human rights, because they target foremost civilian populations including children, women and the elderly,’’ said al-Hamwi before walking out of the Geneva forum’s emergency debate called at the request of the oil princes and the Turks and backed by the West.
In Damascus the Syrian army is claiming victory in Homs, the city that has been the centre of the armed uprising over the past few months. Though isolated pockets of resistance continue to hold out the Syrian army now control the city and all the main roads have been re-opened.
During last week’s assault on the rebel stronghold in the Homs district of Bab Amr in which an American journalist died, the Syrian army took more than 1,500 prisoners, mostly Arab Muslim fighters from the “Wahabi Legion”. But unconfirmed independent French and Russia media reports say these include 18 French nationals who claimed prisoner of war status, refusing to give their identity, rank and unit of assignment. One of them is said to be a Colonel in French intelligence.
According to these reports France has asked Russia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates to mediate to obtain their agents’ release. The French are in an embarrassing position. If they recognise that their agents are combatants with POW status they are confirming that there is a state of war between France and their former colony, Syria. If they wash their hands of them these people could face charges as spies or mercenaries under Syrian law.
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