Syria to Lift Emergency Laws

In a final attempt to appease protesters, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced on Saturday that he is planning to lift the country's state of emergency laws by next week. The totalitarian laws have been in place for nearly 50 years, since the ruling Baath party came to power in 1963, and allow the regime to arrest people without charge or legitimate reason. Assad's tone was more serious and conciliatory than it was in his last speech on March 30, when he refused to take much responsibility for his country's upset and instead blamed protests on foreign conspiracy. While he still insisted that foreign conspiracy had played a big role, he admitted that "there is a gap between government institutions and the people, this gap must be closed." He also said the government will issue a new law which will work to fight corruption while permitting formation of political parties. "After that, there will no longer be an excuse to organize protests in Syria," he warned.