Syria foreign minister speaks of democracy

Beirut: Syria's foreign minister claimed on Wednesday the Damascus government would soon present "an unprecedented example of democracy" in the troubled Middle East, a bold assertion for an embattled regime that has kept a hardline authoritarian grip on its people for decades.

Speaking during a televised news conference, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem also lashed out at European governments for slapping sanctions on Syria for its bloody crackdown on street protests against President Bashar Assad's rule. "We will forget that Europe is on the map," he said.

Moallem's talk of democracy, two days after a major Assad speech, was the regime's latest attempt to blunt three months of widespread demonstrations; a movement that was inspired by pro-democracy upheavals elsewhere in the Mideast and that has persisted despite the reported killing of hundreds of protesters by security forces.
Syria foreign minister speaks of democracy

"We will offer an example of democracy," Moallem said, when asked about his vision for Syria in three months. "There will be social justice, equality before the law and accountability."

The statements by the longtime trusted Assad aide went beyond the vague promises of reform the president made in Monday's speech, and amounted to a rare official admission that Syria has ignored basic democratic principles.

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