Youth, liberalism ascend in Syria

| Wed Feb. 7, 2001 4:00 AM EST

Since the death of President Hafez al-Assad last year, the Syrian government has embarked on a major push for democratization, according to FEED. And this isn't an isolated case: A handful of Middle Eastern countries have been swept along in this recent tide of liberalization led by youthful new leaders.

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Hafez al-Assad's son, Bashar, has already brought significant reforms both personal and economic in his short term. Under his administration, the nation has relaxed rules limiting freedom of the press, released hundreds of political prisoners, privatized the banking system, and approved the creation of a stock exchange.

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While Syria seems to be moving towards a Western-style liberal democracy, the drift hasn't brought Damascus any closer to Washington. The younger al-Assad has spurned US requests to drop demands on territory occupied by Israel and has moved to open up trade with Iraq.

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