11 Jul 2011

Syrian government opens talks

3:21 pm on 11 July 2011

The Syrian government is holding a two-day national dialogue meeting in response to months of protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

The government has said the meeting in Damascus will begin discussions about possible reforms, including multi-party elections and a new media law.

However many opposition leaders and protest organisers have refused

to attend, the BBC reports.

Syrian vice-president Farouk al-Sharaa said hoped the country would eventually become a pluralistic democracy.

Mr Shura added that the government would end a ban on Syrians travelling abroad, or returning from overseas, "within a week".

Dissident writer Tayyeb Tizini noted that bullets were still being fired in Homs and Hama, and called for the dismantling of the police state, AFP reports.

Rights groups estimate that more than 1750 people, including 350 security personnel, have been killed as the government tries to quell protests which began in March.