Iran — Syria's other strong ally — sent two warships through the Suez Canal on Tuesday on their way back from the Syrian port of Tartus. The ships had reportedly docked in Syria over the weekend on a mission to provide training for Syria's naval forces, according to Iranian media reports.
The Pentagon disputed those reports, saying there was no indication the ships had docked or delivered any cargo. U.S. Defense Department spokesman George Little said the Iranian ships now appear to be going back through the Suez Canal again.
Assad has announced a Feb. 26 referendum on a new constitution. The charter would allow a bigger role for political opposition to challenge Assad's Baath Party, which has controlled Syria since a 1963 coup. But leaders of the uprising have dismissed the referendum as an attempt at superficial reforms that do nothing to break the regime's hold on power.
In Jordan, Bernardino Leon, the EU's representative for the Southern Mediterranean, said Assad's regime missed the opportunity for reforms. "Syria is definitely not in a transition despite announcements of changes, despite plans for a referendum," Leon told reporters.
Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Geneva, Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, and Bradley Klapper and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.
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