Syria opened a "national dialogue" on Sunday that it has described as an important step towards reform but amid an opposition boycott. Vice President Faruq al-Shara delivered the opening address to delegates to the dialogue, which was announced in a keynote speech by President Bashar al-Assad last month.
Delegates included some independent MPs as well as members of the ruling Baath party. According to opposition figures, they will boycott the meeting in protest at the government's continued deadly crackdown on protesters. Among the boycotters Haitham Maleh, a human rights activist, who expressed surprise at the call for dialogue at a time when tanks deployment and killings continue across the country.
According to AFP, the government said that delegates to the two-day meeting will be invited to discuss a whole raft of reforms, including amending Clause Eight of the constitution which enshrines the leading role of the Baath party in Syrian political life.