As Syria Votes, West Decries 'Sham'

Hillary Clinton calls on Syrians to oust Bashar al-Assad
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2012 12:50 PM CST
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad casts his ballot next to his wife Asma at a polling station during a referendum on the new constitution, in Damascus, on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012.   (AP Photo/SANA)
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(Newser) – Syria is deciding today on a referendum on a new constitution, with embattled President Bashar al-Assad leading the voting on his central effort to placate those who've sought his ouster for nearly a year now. Assad's detractors, however, were unconvinced, reports the AP, with many in the West denouncing the voting as a "sham." Speaking from Morocco, Hillary Clinton led the calls for Syrians to abandon Assad's regime, saying "the longer you support (its) campaign of violence against your brothers and sisters, the more it will stain your honor. If you refuse, however, to take part in attacks on your fellow citizens, your countrymen and women will hail you as heroes."

Indeed those attacks kept up, notes the AP, with activists saying that at least 29 more people had died in shelling today, mostly in the restive city of Homs. An estimated 7,500 citizens have died since Assad began his crackdown 11 months ago, and there were reports today of "pressure not to vote." The referendum would limit Assad to two seven-year terms after his current term is up in 2014. (Read more Syria stories.)

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