Assad offered peaceful exit by SNC

A fighter from the Sadik unit of Free Syrian Army's Tahrir al Sham brigade fires his rifle from inside a house during heavy fighting in Mleha suburb of Damascus. Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

A fighter from the Sadik unit of Free Syrian Army's Tahrir al Sham brigade fires his rifle from inside a house during heavy fighting in Mleha suburb of Damascus. Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

Mon, Feb 4, 2013, 00:00

Syrian opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib urged president Bashar al-Assad today to respond to his initiative for dialogue, saying it was aimed at ending the bloodshed and helping "the regime leave peacefully".

Speaking after meeting senior Russian, US and Iranian officials at the weekend, Mr Alkahtib said none of them had a plan to end the civil war and Syrians must find their own resolution.

"The big powers have no vision ... Only the Syrian people can decide on the solution," the Syrian National Coalition leader told Al Jazeera Television.

The moderate Islamist preacher announced last week he was prepared to talk to Dr Assad's representatives. Although he set several conditions, the move broke a taboo on contacts with authorities and dismayed many in opposition ranks who insist on Dr Assad's departure as a precondition for negotiation.

Mr Alkhatib said it was not "treachery" to seek dialogue to end a conflict in which more than 60,000 people have been killed, 700,000 have been driven from their country and millions more are homeless and hungry.

"The regime must take a clear stand (on dialogue) and we say we will extend our hand for the interest of people and to help the regime leave peacefully," he told the Qatar-based channel. "It is now in the hands of the regime."

Dr Assad announced last month what he said were plans for reconciliation talks to end the violence but - in a speech described by UN Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi as narrow and uncompromising - he said there would be no dialogue with people he called traitors or "puppets made by the West".

Syria's uprising erupted 22 months ago with largely peaceful protests, escalating into a civil war that pits mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against Dr Assad, who is from Syria's Alawite minority and whose family has ruled Syria for 42 years.