Assad Establishes Panel to Look Into Abolishing Syria's Emergency Laws

The emergency laws have been in place for decades and their removal is one of protesters' key demands; the Syrian president is yet to assume culpability for the local unrest, blaming protests on a foreign conspiracy.

State-run television says the Syrian president has ordered that a legal committee be set up to study the possibility of abolishing the country's hated emergency laws that have been in place since 1963.

The report says President Bashar Assad ordered the formation of the committee on Thursday. It says the committee would have to complete its study by April 25.

Bashar Assad - AFP - 30.3.2011

This development comes a day after Assad dashed expectations that he would announce sweeping reforms, including the lifting of the decades-long state of emergency. The Syrian leader instead chose to deflect culpability for local unrest, blaming the two weeks of popular fury that has gripped Syria on a foreign conspiracy.

This may be an attempt on the part of Assad to control the pace at which reforms are implemented in one the Middle East's arguably most autocratic regimes.

The Syrian president seems to believe otherwise, and in a Damascus speech on Wednesday, said that ongoing anti-government protests that have gripped parts of Syria are meant to enforce an "Israeli agenda."

In his speech, the Syrian president condemned what he called foreign "plots hatched against our county," saying that the people and leadership of Syria would withstand them through unity.

"Syria is a target of a big plot from outside, both internally and externally. If there is something happening it is using the cover of accusing Syria of popular response .If there are reformers we will support them. Those people have a mixed and confused intellectual ways," Assad said.

He said the objective of the conspirators, who make up a minority, was to "fragment and bring down Syria" and "enforce an Israeli agenda."

The Syrian leader claimed that protests were a mix of a genuine need for reform and instigators influenced by foreign plots that were responsible for the killings and destruction.

"The plotters are the minority…we didn't know what had happened until the sabotage operations had happened, since then we could see the difference between reform and killing," Assad said, adding that "We are for people's demands but we cannot support chaos and destruction."

Referring to the people of Daraa, where the most violent protests took place, Assad said that the "People of Daraa are not responsible for what happened, not responsible for the chaos that ensued."

"They [the people of Daraa] are true patriots, people of true integrity, and the ones that will eliminate whoever instigated this violence," Assad said, blaming foreign plotters of moving Daraa modus moperandi implemented in Daraa to other cities.

Although Assad's cabinet resigned on Tuesday in a bid to appease the Syrian people, the president is yet to implement any of the reforms demanded by protesters.