Syria: Opposition aim at united vision

2012-07-02 21:42
AP

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Cairo - Syria's main exiled opposition groups met in Cairo on Monday to try to forge a common vision for a political transition in Syria after criticising a blueprint agreed by the major powers.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, who chaired the meeting attended by around 250 opposition figures, urged the factions "not to waste this opportunity" and to "unite".

Arabi also stressed the need for "a pluralist democratic system that does not discriminate between Syrians".
Nasser al-Qudwa, deputy to UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, echoed Arabi's call, telling the opposition to "unify your vision and your performance".

"This is not a choice, but a necessity if the opposition wants to gain the trust of its people in Syria," Qudwa told the meeting which was also attended by the foreign ministers of Turkey, Iraq and Kuwait.

Violence

The two-day meeting was being held behind closed doors and comes as violence continues in Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that more than 16 500 people have been killed in violence since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March last year.

On Monday the Syrian army kept up its bombardment of rebel neighbourhoods of the central city of Homs as violence killed at least seven people across the country, the watchdog said.

An activist in Homs said that many civilians remained trapped in the shelling of the Jurat al-Shiah, Khaldiyeh and Old City neighbourhoods of Syria's third-largest city.

"Many neighbourhoods of Homs are still under siege, and it is really hard for us to get food or medicines in," said Khaled al-Tellawy.

"Field doctors are amputating the limbs of the injured because they have no equipment to treat them with, and they can't be smuggled out."

Boycott

Rebel fighters and activists based in Syria said they would boycott the Cairo meeting, denouncing it as a "conspiracy" and charged that the agenda of the talks rejects calls for military intervention.

The statement, signed by the rebel Free Syrian Army and "independent" activists, said the meeting serves the interests of the Syrian regime's allies Russia and Iran.

The signatories rejected "the idea of a foreign military intervention to save the people... and ignoring the question of buffer zones protected by the international community, humanitarian corridors, an air embargo and the arming of rebel fighters".

World powers meeting in Geneva at the weekend agreed a transition plan for Syria, in a compromise with Russia and China, that was branded a failure by both the opposition and Syrian state media.

The boycotters said the talks follow the "dangerous decisions of the Geneva conference, which aim to safeguard the regime, to create a dialogue with it and to form a unity government with the assassins of our children".

The Geneva plan did not make any explicit call for Assad to cede power, as urged by Western governments, after Russia and China insisted that Syrians themselves must decide how the transition takes place.

Bashar al-Assad

The opposition Syrian National Council said on Sunday that "no initiative can receive the Syrian people's backing unless it specifically demands the fall of Bashar al-Assad and his clique".

Of the more than 16 500 killed since the start of the uprising, 11 486 were civilians, 4 151 government troops and 870 army defectors, the Observatory said.

In its running tolls, the watchdog counts as civilians those rebel fighters who are not defectors from the army.
Meanwhile Assad, whose government refers to rebel fighters and unarmed activists as "terrorists", issued new "counter-terrorism" laws on Monday.

One law stipulates that a state employee convicted of “any act of terrorism” will be fired, while the second provides for jail terms of up to 20 years with hard labour for any act of violence or kidnap for ransom.

Elsewhere on Monday, Saudi Arabia called on the international community to take "decisive measures to stop... the mass slaughter" of the Syrian people.

Assad's regime "must immediately end the massacres and fully implement the... [UN] plan aimed at reaching a political solution in line with the aspirations of the Syrian people," said a statement issued after a weekly cabinet meeting chaired by King Abdullah.

It called for a "fixed timeframe" for the implementation of the Annan peace plan which demands an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from urban centres.

Read more on:    bashar al-assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings
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