Syria PM says gov't to propose political, economic reforms

State news agency quotes newly-appointed Adel Safar as saying he will set up committees to propose new laws; 138 Baath Party members resign to protest gov't crackdown on protesters.

Tank Syria Deraa 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Tank Syria Deraa 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Newly-appointed Syrian Prime Minister Adel Safar said on Saturday his government would draw up a "complete plan" of political, judicial and economic reforms, state news agency SANA said on Saturday.
SANA quoted Safar as saying he would set up committees to propose new laws and amendments to legislation in those areas.
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As anti-government protests raged throughout the country, 138 members of Syrian President Bashar Assad's ruling Baath Party resigned to protest the violent crackdowns carried out by security forces, The Associated Press reported.
Earlier this week, another 200 mostly low-level Baath party members in the Deraa province resigned over the deadly crackdown.
Earlier on Saturday, the Syrian government ordered more tanks into Deraa and heavy gunfire was heard in the city as security forces tried to crush a revolt against Assad, residents said. Six people were killed in the offensive, the BBC reported.
Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East
Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East
Syrian troops and tanks first swept into Deraa on Monday to quell pro-democracy protests against Assad that have spread across the country of 20 million, posing the biggest challenge to his rule and prompting Western powers to impose sanctions.
Deraa, a southern city of 120,000 people, is the cradle of a six-week-old uprising which started with demands for more freedom and an end to corruption. It developed into a movement to overthrow Assad following a violent crackdown by authorities.
Residents said they could hear heavy gunfire, mostly from Deraa's old quarter, which is situated on a hill near the Jordanian border and is mostly residential.
"Since dawn, we've been hearing a heavy exchange of gunfire that is echoing across the city and you do not know what's happening," Abu Tareq, a resident, told Reuters by phone.
"I saw more than 15 tanks that had entered from the Damascus highway heading in the direction of the Old City."
Syrian rights groups put Friday's death toll at 62, pushing the number of deaths since an uprising that has posed the biggest challenge to the Assad dynasty's four decades in power, to more than 500.
The crackdown prompted Western powers to take their first concrete steps in punishing Syria for the bloodshed. Washington imposed new sanctions on government figures, including Assad's brother, who commands the army division which stormed Deraa on Monday.