Gesture by Assad called a ‘sham’ by West

Referendum held on constitution

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The referendum on the new constitution allows, at least in theory, for opening the country’s political system.

It would create a multiparty system in Syria, which has been ruled by the Baath party since it took power in a coup in 1963. Mr. Assad’s father, Hafez, took power in another coup in 1970.

Such change was unthinkable a year ago. It also imposes limit of two seven-year terms on the president.

But since Mr. Assad’s security forces have killed thousands in their effort to end the uprising, most opposition groups say they will accept nothing short of his ouster.

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