Syrians vote for new constitution
European Union nations get tough with new sanctions for Middle Eastern nation
The people of Syria have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new constitution for their troubled land. According to television reports, 89.4 per cent of voters said "yes" to the new constitution in a controversial referendum. According to local media reports, 57.4 percent of eligible voters had voted the day earlier and only nine per cent said "no" to the referendum that President Bashar al-Assad's opponents and Western nations have dismissed as a sham.
Qatar's Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said he was in favor of delivering arms to the Syrian opposition that is battling government forces.
The foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries also banned the purchase of gold, precious metals and diamonds from the country, and banned Syrian cargo flights from the European Union. The leaders decided on the new sanctions in a meeting in Brussels.
The specific names of the Syrian officials sanctioned will shortly be made public in the E.U.'s official journal.
Qatar's Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said he was in favor of delivering arms to the Syrian opposition that is battling government forces. "We should do whatever necessary to help them, including giving them weapons to defend themselves," hesaid during an official visit to Norway.
"This uprising in Syria now [has lasted] one year. For 10 months, it was peaceful: nobody was carrying weapons, nobody was doing anything. And Bashar continued killing them.
"So I think they're right to defend themselves by weapons and I think we should help these people by all means."
The recent diplomatic activity came on the heels of the reported the deaths of 15 people across the country, including two children.
The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an umbrella opposition group, said six people were killed when government forces bombarded In Bab Amr, an opposition stronghold in Hom, for the 24th straight day.
Explosions were also reported in the neighborhoods of Hamidiyeh, Bustan al-Diwan and the city center.
The Syrian town of Tiyaneh in Deir Ezzor also experienced violent clashes between government forces and the armed opposition, the LCC said.
Armed pro-government supporters known as Shabiha chased students staging a sit-in at the University of Aleppo's faculty of dentistry. Gunfire was later heard at the university campus where demonstrators were trapped in halls of residence, while 14 were arrested.
More than 8,000 people have been killed in violence across Syria since anti-government protests erupted in March 2011.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Syria, election, constitution, sanctions, E.U.
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