Feb. 27 - As France continues to call for Assad to step down in Syria, Russia maintains Syria must make its own choices. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
The shelling of Homs continues. Amateur video out of Syria which could not be independently verified by Reuters shows the ongoing bombing campaign of Homs. The assault serves as a violent backdrop to a referendum on a constitution that offers some reforms, but could keep President Bashar al-Assad in power until 2028. In Paris, French President Nicholas Sarkozy says Assad can not hide from his actions (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NICOLAS SARKOZY SAYING: "Globalization has many defects and creates many sufferings but there is some advantage too: today a dictator cannot murder in his country with impunity as we have seen during the 20th century, with total impunity, there is no secret. Bashar al-Assad's regime, Bashar al-Assad must leave, he is disqualified." A very different view out of Moscow with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who says Syria must determine its own affairs. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEI LAVROV, SAYING: "What additional reforms are needed and what other changes are needed in the constitution is not a question for external players; this should be done by Syrians themselves in the framework of a national dialogue that should, as is now acceptable to say, be inclusive." On Monday, Syrian State Television said that close to 90 percent of voting Syrians approved a new constitution, proposed by Assad, in a referendum on Sunday. The government claims overall turnout to be over 57 percent. Constitutional reforms are aimed at quelling the growing rebellion against the Assad family's 42 years in power, but Assad's opponents and the West have the dismissed the reforms and the referendum as a sham. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.