Syria's domestic opposition urges end of regime and 'all its symbols'
SYRIAN DOMESTIC opposition figures meeting in Damascus yesterday called for the ejection of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Representatives of the 16 groups attending announced agreement on the “overthrow of the regime with all its symbols”, but urged Syrians to wage a “peaceful struggle to achieve the goals of the revolution”.
They called for an immediate ceasefire, full withdrawal of the army from urban areas, release of detainees and abductees and negotiations between the opposition and representatives of the government on a transition.
Hassan Abdel-Azim, head of the National Co-ordination Board, the coalition behind the gathering, said: “It’s our right to meet here in the capital to express our views without being subjected to dictates and pressures or forced to make concessions.”
Ahead of the meeting, two leading members of the board, Abdel Aziz al-Khair and Iyas Ayash, and a friend were reported to have been detained by regime intelligence as they returned to Damascus from a visit to China.
The board adheres to the line “no to arms, no to external intervention and no to confessionalism” in contrast to the Sunni-dominated expatriate opposition Syrian National Council and rebel Free Syrian army, which seek weapons and foreign involvement.
A second gathering of 28 smaller internal factions was postponed because of differences over policy.
Domestic regime factions accuse the council and the free army of being under Turkey’s tutelage and say they do not connect with the grassroots.
The conference coincided with the announcement by the free army that it had moved its headquarters, originally in Turkey, to an undisclosed location inside Syria in order to unite disparate rebel militias under a single command.
Clashes between troops and rebels continued across the country as Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi reiterated his contention that Iran had a role to play in ending the conflict.
Mr Morsi expects to take part in consultations on Syria on the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly.
UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who is due to report to the UN Security Council on his visit to the region, said he will urge members that support him “separately” to do so “collectively” and agree to a plan to end the bloodshed.
“The situation is very bad and worsening . . . I don’t think any side is winning now or anytime in the future,” he said. “Profound change” not reform was needed, he said, and the flow of weapons to both sides had to stop.
Meanwhile, President Assad’s only sister, Bushra al-Assad, is reported to be in Dubai with her five children. Her husband, security chief Assef Shawkat, was killed in a bombing in Damascus in July.