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Assad Allows Syria Opposition Parties; Opposition Rejects Measure As Ploy


President Bashar al-Assad
Syria's official SANA news agency says President Bashar al-Assad has issued a decree allowing opposition political parties.

The SANA report said the new law allows political parties to be set up alongside Assad's Baath party, in power since 1963 with the constitutional status of "the leader of state and society."

Political pluralism has been at the forefront of demands by pro-reform dissidents who since March have been taking to the streets across Syria almost daily to call for greater freedoms.

But French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has dismissed Assad's decree as "lacking credibility," echoing criticism from Syrian activists, who called the measure "cosmetic."

The decree comes a day after the UN Security Council condemned the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on the protesters.

Meanwhile, both the United States and Russia toughened their stance against Assad's regime.

White House spokesman Jay Carney warned that Assad had put Syria and the Middle East on a "very dangerous path."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged Assad to carry out reforms and reconcile with his opponents, saying he risked a "sad fate" if he failed to do so.

compiled from agency reports