In Focus | Syria

Syrian opposition defers unification plan

Al Assad denies the conflict in his country is a civil war

  • Gulf News Report
  • Published: 18:40 November 9, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: EPA
  • Syrian people flee from Syria after clashes between Syrian rebels and government soldiers in Rasulayn region, a few hundred meters from Turkey’s Ceylanpinar, in Sanliurfa, Turkey on Friday. Reports state some 9,000 Syrian refugees fled to Turkey overnight amid escalating clashes between rebel forces and troops loyal to Damascus near the border. Meanwhile, Syria’s splintered opposition groups, under pressure to forge a united front against President Bashar al-Assad, on Friday resumed talks in Qatar on the creation of an all-inclusive leadership body.

Dubai: The Syrian National Council, vying to keep its leading role and under US pressure to unify, on Friday called for a delay to a decision on bringing together all groups opposed to President Bashar Al Assad.

Meeting in Doha, the SNC sought to have the decision made on Saturday after it chooses a new chief, having already elected a 41-member secretariat, a third of them Islamists, and as it faces charges of not being representative enough.

“We requested a postponement of 24 hours — we are in the electoral process,” Ahmad Ramadan, a member the new team, said. The umbrella group yesterday elected 11 members to sit on its executive committee, including Christian dissident George Sabra. Four members are new and three others are Islamists.

A source privy to meetings said SNC members had shifted views and were coming to accept the need to form a wider body.  “The body will be the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Once they get international recognition, there will be a fund for military support.”

Another participant, who did not want to be identified, said that Louay Safi, a Syrian-American scholar on Islam and the Middle East, is tipped to be the new chief.
Meanwhile, Al Assad denied that the conflict in Syria is a civil war, arguing that his troops are fighting terrorists.   “We do not have a civil war. It is about terrorism and the support coming from abroad to terrorists to destabilise Syria. This is our war,” Al Assad told Russia Today.  He accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of having imperial ambitions.

More than 11,000 Syrians poured into neighbouring countries in a single day, UN officials said on Friday, in a dramatic surge in the exodus of refugees.

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