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Thread: Exiled Syrians form united front against Assad

  1. #1
    Partridge Guest

    Exiled Syrians form united front against Assad

    Exiled Syrians form united front against Assad
    Irish Times

    Exiled Syrian opposition leaders announced the creation of a united front today to form a transitional government to bring about "regime change" in the country ruled by President Bashar al-Assad's Ba'ath Party since the 1960s.

    "Syria is in need of salvation from the autocratic regime which has weakened the country" and put it in dangers "never seen before," opposition leaders said in a joint declaration after a two-day meeting in Brussels.

    Opposition groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, liberals, communists and Kurds, launched a "National Salvation Front" and issued a "National Programe for Change" during a six-month transition to democracy.

    Fourteen exiled politicians - all men - appeared on the platform at a joint news conference.

    Former Vice-President Abdel-Halim Khaddam, a defector from the ruling Ba'ath Party who broke with Mr Assad last year; and Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Bayanouni held centre-stage.

    "All political, social, and economic partners in Syria will form an interim government that will be ready to take over the administration of the country at the appropriate moment," the statement said.

    An interim government would cancel the constitution, organise elections, lift the state of emergency, cancel a law condemning members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death and free all political prisoners.

    Mr Assad is under severe international pressure over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri last year, which prompted mass protests and a United Nations resolution forcing the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

    However, it is not clear how much popular support the combined opposition can command in Syria, a tightly controlled country where penalties for dissent can be high.

    Mr Khaddam acknowledged the opposition front was not yet complete and said the organisers would now work on taking all political, religious and ethnic groups on board before their next meeting within 45 days.

  2. #2
    Partridge Guest
    U.S. General Praises Syria for Border Tightening
    LA Times

    The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East offered rare words of praise Thursday for Syria, saying Damascus has taken steps to stop the movement of foreign fighters over its border into Iraq.

    Army Gen. John P. Abizaid said Syria had begun taking action on long-standing complaints by the United States about foreign fighters, one of several issues dividing the two countries.

    Abizaid, the chief of U.S. Central Command, was asked by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) at a Senate hearing whether Syria raised the same level of concern as Iran in relation to U.S. efforts in Iraq.

    "No, I'd say that the flow of foreign fighters across the Syrian border has decreased, and that's clear from our intelligence," Abizaid responded. "We know that. We know that the Syrians have moved against the foreign fighters.

    "Why have they? Because the foreign fighters represent a threat to Syria, and they certainly don't want to have these organizations and groups operating within their own country that are ultimately going to be a threat to their own government," Abizaid continued. "So, out of self-interest, the Syrians have reacted in a way that has slowed the flow of foreign fighters."

    Earlier Thursday, Syrian President Bashar Assad said his nation was central to stability in the region and the West's goals there.

    "If they want to talk about peace, then Syria is essential," Assad said in an interview with Britain's Sky News. "If they want a stable Iraq, then Syria is essential."

    Besides accusing Syria of inadequate border control, U.S. officials have accused Damascus of interfering in Lebanon, even though Syria removed its troops from there under international pressure after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

    This week, Assad relaxed his government's stance toward a United Nations probe of the killing and agreed to meet with the commission conducting the investigation.

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