Russia backs Assad's political reform plan: Kremlin
Russia on Wednesday came out in support of Syria's reported intentions to adopt major reforms as President Bashar al-Assad faces pressure to pursue political change and end emergency rule.
President Dmitry Medvedev, who last year became the first Russian or even Soviet-era leader to travel to Syria, spoke to his Syrian counterpart by phone to express his support for his government plans to launch reforms, the Kremlin said in a statement.
"The president supported the intentions of the Syrian leadership to start internal reforms announced by Bashar al-Assad with the aim of preventing an unfavorable development of the situation (and) human casualties, for the sake of preserving civilian peace," the Kremlin said.
Syrian lawmakers plan to adopt major reforms in May, including an end to emergency rule, a politician close to the regime told AFP earlier in the day.
The lifting of emergency rule, in place since 1962, has been a central demand of anti-government protesters who have been calling for political reforms and more freedoms since mid-March.
Russia is seeking to promote itself as a major power in the Middle East, and Medvedev travelled to Damascus last May to boost economic and political ties with its Soviet-era ally.
On Thursday, Medvedev is set to meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan, whose government is under pressure from the Islamist opposition to launch broad political reforms.
© 2011 AFP