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Syria: Assad Calls Elections For May But Opposition Calls For 'Intervention'

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has announced plans for elections in May, even as international condemnation of the violence committed against civilians by his troops continues to rise.

The Syrian state media said that the People's Assembly elections would be held on 7 May.

In total 250 members will be chosen, with 127 representing "farmers and workers" and 123 from "other sectors".

In a statement the head of the Elections Higher Committee Khalaf al-Azzawi said that this decree "constitutes the first step of implementing the articles of the new constitution" for which a vote was held amid worsening violence at the end of February.

Under the new constitution multiple parties would theoretically be allowed for the first time under Assad's rule. However it seems unlikely in the extreme that any members of the opposition currently engaged in running battles with government troops would be represented.

Sana said: "the elections will be held with utmost integrity, democracy and freedom so that voters can choose their representatives in the highest legislative authority in Syria".

The announcement of the elections, the third since 2000, was rubbished by opposition figures who said that there was no chance the polls would be truly democratic.

"Of course we will boycott the elections because they will be fixed," Melhem al-Droubi, a member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and the Syrian National Council told Reuters. "But this is not a main focus for us. What we want is real change with a real presidential election, which Assad would surely lose."

The Syrian National Council, based in Turkey, called for immediate international intervention.

"We demand urgent military intervention by the Arab and international community to rescue civilians," the group said in a statement on Sunday.

"Condemnations, expressions of sympathy, and statements of denouncement are no longer sufficient. Strong measures must be taken against Assad's gangs."

Meanwhile the Syrian government was accused of placing landmines on routes into Lebanon and Turkeyaccording to a new investigation by the Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The New York-based group published photos of 300 PMN-2 antipersonnel mines removed from the ground near Idlib.

Witnesses said that the Syrian army had placed the devices in January.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Security Council that Syria's "horrific campaign of violence" had "shocked the conscience of the world".

She called on Russia and China, who have previously vetoed resolutions condemning the violence and calling on President Assad to leave office, to change their stance.

Clinton said: "Now is the time for all nations, even those who have previously blocked our efforts, to stand behind the humanitarian and political approach spelled out by the Arab League."

The United Nations says that at least 8,000 people have been killed since the start of the uprising in March 2011.

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Syria: 12 February 2012
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