President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday issued a decree authorising a multi-party political system in Syria, the official SANA news agency reported.
"Assad on Thursday proclaimed a presidential decree on the law of the parties," SANA reported.
The decree allows political parties to be established and to function alongside the Baath party, in power since 1963 with the constitutional status of "the leader of state and society".
The Syrian government adopted a draft law on multiple political organisations last month.
At the time, SANA reported the draft legislation was "aimed at enriching political life, creating a new dynamic and allowing for a change in political power".
"The bill stipulates the essential objectives and principles governing the activities of parties, conditions for their establishment ... and rules relating to their financing, their rights and their obligations," SANA said.
It prohibits parties founded on the basis "of religion, tribal affiliation, regional interests; professional organisations as well as parties which discriminate on the basis of race, sex or colour," the report said.
Assad's decree means the law can take effect immediately without parliament's approval.
Political pluralism has been at the forefront of demands by pro-reform dissidents who since March 15 have been taking to the streets across Syria almost daily to call for greater freedoms.
The decree came hours after the UN Security Council stepped up pressure on Syria's rulers by condemning the bloody crackdown and saying those responsible should be held accountable.
The council was unable to agree on a resolution, but settled on a less-binding statement condemning "the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities."
"More deaths in Hama"
Meanwhile, Syrian troops killed at least 45 civilians in a tank assault to occupy the center of the besieged city of Hama, an activist said on Thursday.
Thousands of civilians were fleeing the city, a bastion of protest surrounded by a ring of steel of troops with tanks and heavy weapons.
Electricity and communications have been cut off and as many as 130 people have been killed in a four-day military assault since Assad sent troops into the city on Sunday, activists say.
In Hama, residents said tanks had advanced into the main Orontes Square, the site of some of the biggest protests against Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad in 2000. Snipers spread onto rooftops and into a nearby citadel.
An activist who managed to leave the city told Reuters that 40 people were killed by heavy machinegun fire and shelling by tanks in al-Hader district on Wednesday and early on Thursday.
The activist, who gave his name as Thaer, said five more people from the Fakhri and Assa'ad families, including two children, were killed as they were trying to leave Hama by car on the al-Dhahirya highway.
Hama has been one of the main centers of protest against Assad, reviving memories of 1982, when Assad's father sent troops to crush Islamist protests in the city, killing thousands of people and razing much of al-Hader district to the ground.
Rights groups said the lack of communication with the besieged city was alarming. There were also some reports that water supplies were blocked.
"Hama has been cut off. We're in the dark and of course we're very worried," said Human Rights Watch's Beirut-based senior Syria and Lebanon researcher, Nadim Houry.
Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 1,500 families managed to flee Hama in the last 48 hours, heading mainly to the east or the west of the besieged city. Other activists said authorities had blocked the road north toward Aleppo and Turkey.
"We are talking about hundreds of families leaving Hama since yesterday by cars and pick-up trucks," said one activist in touch with the families which escaped.
"The Aleppo road is the most dangerous, with most 'shabbiha' (pro-Assad militia) stationed there to prevent movement up to Turkey," he said. A resident of Aleppo said police were turning families from Hama back at roadblocks.
Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory said seven other people were killed across Syria during protests on Wednesday night, three of them in the southern Deraa province and two in the Damascus district of Midan.
AgenciesLast Mod: 04 Ağustos 2011, 17:50