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Syria lifts 48 year-old emergency law

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The Syrian government approved the lifting of the country's 48 year-old law Tuesday (April 19th), Syria's official news agency SANA reported. Removing the law was a key demand of anti-government protesters.

The cabinet also approved abolishing the state security court, which death with political prisoners, and approved a new law allowing peaceful protests. The changes need parliament approval, but no objections are expected.

Opposition leaders, however, denounced the government's actions, saying that President Bashar al-Assad would only use the changes to give the illusion of reform while actually continuing his authoritarian rule.

Meanwhile, Syrian security forces fired at thousands of protesters early Tuesday in the central city of Homs, breaking up a demonstration to demand the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, activists said. About a dozen people were reported killed.

On Monday, the government said it would stop what it called an "armed revolt" that is threatening national security as protests continued in Homs.

"Armed Salafist groups, particularly in the cities of Homs and Banias, have openly called for armed revolt," SANA reported. "Their terrorist activities will not be tolerated," the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by SANA.