Syria: Muted Celebrations Greet Baathist Takeover Anniversary
In Syria the traditional pomp, ceremony and military parades for the anniversary of the 8 March 1963 revolt that brought the Baath party to power gave way to more subdued celebrations on Wednesday. For opponents of President Bashir al-Assad's government, Wednesday marked the 43rd year of state emergency rule. According to local observers the government decided to tone down the anniversary celebrations because of Syria's difficult position in international relations.

First Syria suffered the humiliation of having to withdraw its troops from Lebanon last April ending a presence which had lasted for 30 years. Since then Damascus has been under pressure to co-operate with a UN investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. Several top Syrian secutity officials have been implicated in the 14 February 2005 killing of Hariri and 20 others in a Beirut bomb blast.

It is precisely this state of affairs that obesrvers believe may push the government to ease the state of emergency restrictions, as a move to appease the government's critics both at home and abroad. This could be followed by the introduction of reforms to the country's autocratic system of government, a necessary condition if Syria is to benefit from European Union development assistance and other international aid and co-operation. Opposition groups have organised a rally for Thursday in front of the main law court buildings in Damascus to protest against human rights abuses in the country.
Posted by: Fred 2006-03-09