Syria is to allow political parties, state agency says

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Bashar al-Assad inherited the presidency and the leadership of the Baath Party from his father

The Syrian government has adopted a draft law that allows the formation of political parties other than the ruling Baath party, state media say.

The Baath party has governed Syria for nearly half a century.

The law appears to prohibit parties founded on the basis of religion, or tribal or regional affiliation.

A multi-party political system is a key demand of anti-government protesters who have taken to the streets across Syria since March to demand reform.

The Baath party banned opposition groups in Syria after the military coup in 1963 that brought it to power.

Under the constitution, the Baath "leads society and state".

"The government adopted a draft law regarding political parties in Syria as part of a programme of reform aimed at enriching the political life, creating a new dynamic and allowing for a change in political power," the official news agency Sana said.

Protesters appear to gather in Kusweh City. The BBC is unable to verify this footage.

Political parties have to adhere to "democratic principles", the state agency said.

Syria has seen four months of protest against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Human rights groups say that about 1,400 civilians and 350 security forces personnel have died in the four months of protest.

On Friday, tens of thousands of Syrians again took to the streets in protest across the country, in defiance of a widespread crackdown.

The government blames the unrest on "armed criminal gangs" backed by a foreign conspiracy.

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