Syria says voters have approved a new constitution in a vote that the West has dismissed as a "farce" meant to justify deadly crackdown on dissidents. President Bashar Assad has presented the new charter as a step toward reform.
Syria's State TV said Monday that 89% of voters approved the new document, while 9% rejected it. Less than 2% of the ballots were ruled invalid. It put turnout at 57% of eligible voters. Opposition groups boycotted Sunday's vote.
The new constitution – in theory – allows other political parties to compete with Assad's ruling Baath Party, and imposes a two-term limit on the president. But Assad's time served so far does not count, meaning he could remain in office until 2028.
Meanwhile, Red Cross teams reached Hama for the first time in more than a month on Monday, delivering food and other goods to the central Syrian city battered by a military crackdown on the anti-government uprising.
Hicham Hassan, an International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman in Geneva, said a joint team of the ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent brought an emergency delivery of food and other items for 12,000 people. He said it was the first time the aid group has been able to enter Hama since January 17.
In Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned, again, against military intervention in Syria or an attack on its ally Iran in scathing criticism of the West.
He said the West had backed the Arab Spring to advance its own interests in the region, and that instead of promoting democracy, the revolts had given rise to religious extremism.
Russia has been one of Damascus' strongest supporters and, along with China, vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions backing Arab League plans aimed at ending the conflict and condemning the Syrian regime's crackdown.
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