Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, July 2011
France 24, 17 July 2011 - 13H40
The army is preparing to storm the eastern border town of Al-Bukamal, next to Iraq, where "armed groups" have created an "explosive" situation," Al-Watan newspaper reported on Sunday. Al-Watan newspaper says the "situation is back to normal" in the central city of Hama, the epicentre of anti-government protests in recent weeks, which raised fears of a military crackdown.
The army is preparing to storm the eastern border town of Al-Bukamal,
next to Iraq, where "armed groups" have created an "explosive"
situation," Al-Watan newspaper reported on Sunday.
Syrian opposition forms council to battle Assad
Opponents of the Syrian regime created a board-based council at a meeting in Turkey that they hope will become the government-in-waiting and fill the political void if ongoing protests succeed in toppling President Bashar al-Assad.
By News Wires (text)
REUTERS - Syrian opposition factions meeting in Istanbul on Saturday formed a broad-based council in the hope of creating a government-in-waiting to fill a void if street protests succeed in toppling President Bashar al-Assad.
Meeting a day after the biggest protests so far in Syria, the result was probably the minimum the opposition could have hoped for if they were to give heart to protesters risking their lives demanding an end to 41 years of Assad family rule.
“We shall work towards reaching out towards other opposition groups to lead the country towards the democratic vision we have,” Haitham al-Maleh, a prominent opposition figure told Reuters at the end of the long, and often fractious one-day meeting.
Some 350 people attended the « National Salvation Congress », but inevitably many came from outside Syria, having left the country years if not decades earlier.
They had hoped to hook up with opposition inside Syria though a video link to a conference in Damascus, but that was called off after Syrian security forces targeted the venue as part of a brutal crackdown in the capital on Friday.
Assad’s troops killed at least 32 civilians, including 23 in the capital Damascus on Friday. On Saturday, secret police killed one protester and wounded five when they opened fire at pro-democracy demonstrators in the eastern border town of Albu Kamal near Iraq’s Sunni heartland.
Rights groups estimate that more than 1,400 people have been killed in the brutal repression unleashed since the uprising began in March.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, coincidentally also in Istanbul for a meeting on the Libya crisis and talks with Turkey’s leaders, condemned the carnage and encouraged efforts to create a coherent opposition.
“The brutality has to stop,” she said in a televised interview with a group of young Turkish people at an Istanbul coffee shop on Saturday.
Later at a joint news conference with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Clinton said: “Now Syria’s future is up to the Syrian people, but of course the efforts by the opposition to come together to organise and to articulate an agenda are an important part of political reform.”
Davutoglu repeated warnings to Assad’s government to implement reform or face being swept away by democratic forces.
“A government that does not consider the demands of its society won’t survive, » said Davutoglu, who had earlier urged Assad to undertake “shock therapy” reforms.
“Assad said he was going to have multi-party groups in parliament ... I hope Syria has opposition parties and that Syria has opposition parties that raise their voice,” he said.
Splits opened up at the Istanbul meeting over whether to form a government-in-waiting or wait to see how the uprising unfolds, rather than assume leadership of an uprising that sprang from the people.
At the end of the day the opposition figure compromised on forming the 25-member council which will meet on Sunday to appoint an 11-member committee that will organise another conference aimed at creating a government-in-waiting.
“The council will be entrusted with the task of preparing another conference that will have high on its agenda electing a a government-in-exile to handle a transitional period after the regime’s downfall,” said Adib Shishakly, a liberal and scion of an old political family now based in Saudi Arabia.
Radwan Ziadeh, a well-known activist based in Washington who was attending the Istanbul meeting, said the opposition will be compelled to narrow their differences out of respect for the protesters dying in the streets.
“The feeling of responsibility will push them to narrow their leadership wrangles. If they don’t do that the street will discredit them,” Ziadeh said.
Broadly divided between Islamists, liberals, tribal leaders and Kurdish factions, and those living in exile the fragmented opposition are virtual strangers to each other having been suppressed by decades of one-party rule.
“People are demanding that the opposition speed up unifying its efforts so that people deal with it as a credible alternative, » Ali Sadreddin Bayanouni, the former head of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood told Reuters.
During the meeting tribal leaders complained they were not being accorded enough importance, some Kurdish factions withdrew from the meeting, and liberals fretted over the size of the Islamist block.
Ziadeh said it was unsurprising that they should struggle to form a common front, despite their shared aim.
“They are united in their goal to have a democratic civil state and that there will be no dialogue with the regime until he accepts to withdraw all the troops from the streets and release all the prisoners," he said.
But for opposition meeting in Istanbul the end-game was to bring about regime change as peacefully as possible.
“I’m for anything that unifies the Syrian people and helps our people inside, and unifies our ranks in confronting this illegitimate repressive regime that has usurped power and human rights, » opposition figure Wael al Hafez told the meeting in Istanbul, echoing comments made by others.
“We want to raise the intensity of the peaceful confrontation
by civil disobedience and to choke the regime economically and
paralyse the state with the least damage.”
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