First Published: 2012-11-08

 

In Qatar, Syria opposition seeks to hammer out government-in-waiting

 

Ahmed Ben Helli says delegates have been urged to overcome sharp divides that have dogged their efforts to unseat Assad.

 

Middle East Online

By Acil Tabbara - DOHA

‘Failure is forbidden’

Syrians from a wide spectrum of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad began meeting in Doha Thursday to hammer out a government-in-waiting world powers will accept as credible and representative.

Ahmed Ben Helli, deputy head of the Arab League which with Qatar is brokering the meeting, told reporters that delegates had been urged to overcome the sharp divides that have dogged their efforts to unseat Assad.

"The opposition is urged to agree on a leading body which would have credibility among the Syrian people and the international community," Ben Helli said.

His comments were echoed by Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani who, on opening the meeting, called on Assad's opponents to "unify their ranks and positions and to prioritise the interests of their nation and people over their own personal interests."

Burhan Ghalioun, former leader of the main exiled opposition group, the Syria National Council (SNC), told reporters the meeting could last two or three days.

"The atmosphere is positive. Everyone wants (the meeting) to succeed, failure is forbidden," he said.

Washington wants the opposition to reshape into a widely representative government-in-exile, while opposition leaders say such a body could be sited outside the country or in zones of Syria now under the control of armed rebels.

Representatives from a number of countries, including the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, are attending the meeting alongside Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi and Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani.

Turkey, which has repeatedly called on Assad to step aside, is represented by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu while leading dissident, former premier Riad Hijab who defected in August, is also attending.

"We will discuss a structure that would unify the Syrian opposition," Hijab told reporters. "We are optimistic."

Also among delegates is Rima Flayhan, representing the Local Coordination Committees, made up of youth groups inside the country which have been at the vanguard of the uprising, as well as veteran opposition figure Haytham al-Maleh.

Long-time regime opponent who advocates peaceful change in Syria, Michel Kilo, however was not present but in a statement announced his support for the initiative.

The meeting began soon after the SNC announced it had during the night elected a new leadership, after being criticised for not being representative enough.

Some 400 SNC members had voted in a new Islamist-dominated 41-member general secretariat, which will now be tasked with electing 11 members to appoint a successor to its outgoing president Abdel Basset Sayda.

The process has been delayed until Friday to allow four members representing women and minorities to be added to the secretariat ahead of the vote, the officials said.

Before travelling to Doha on Wednesday, Arabi said that preparations must start for a transitional government to be ready when "there are changes on the ground" in Syria.

But in an indication it is reluctant to relinquish the cloak of leadership, the SNC has insisted that the "only body that can form a transitional government is a general national congress bringing together all political opposition forces, in which the SNC would hold the biggest share."

The SNC position appears to challenge an initiative proposed by prominent dissident Riad Seif, and reportedly backed by the United States, to unify the opposition.

Seif has reportedly proposed that the SNC be given only 15 of 50 seats in the new group, to make room for activists from inside Syria.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week called the SNC unrepresentative of opposition forces on the ground and said it "can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition."

The SNC -- which was set up six months after the uprising against the Assad regime erupted in March last year -- has in return accused Washington of undermining the revolt and "sowing the seeds of division."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 37,000 people have died since the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011, first as a protest movement and then an armed rebellion after the regime cracked down on demonstrations.

 

An extraordinary meeting: Gulf ministers agree to end tension with Qatar

US releases $450 million Iranian frozen assets

‘Retaliation is life’ group vows to attack Egypt security forces

Gunmen storm South Sudan UN base killing 20

Malaysia activists: Obama you are not welcome here!

Marzouki sets an 'example' by cutting salary by two-thirds

Rouhani: Iran does not intend to be aggressive but can defend itself

Turkey to Russia: We demand a gas price revision

For Massacre-scarred Algeria village, peace is worth more than wealth

An act of heroism: Iraq policeman sacrifices himself to shield army recruits

UK ‘determined to catch’ killer of Libya embassy policewoman

Experts: Washington demanded removal of Saudi spy chief

Future of Algeria on wheelchair

Palestinians rally for solidarity with Israel-held prisoners

Turkey may clinch bid to dismantle Italy’s wrecked ship

Israeli, Palestinian negotiators to hold meeting with US envoy

UN ‘gravely concerned’ about South Sudan oil state fighting

South Sudan war: Child soldiers consumed by desire for retribution

Algerians casting their vote for president

Syria world’s most perilous country fro journalists

Egypt jails ex-presidential hopeful for fraud

Egypt leftist leader urges all revolutionary groups to unite

Jordan ‘destroyed’ combat vehicles entering from Syria

South Sudan army loses key oil town of Bentiu

Lebanon parliament soon to elect new president

Zarif to discuss Caspion Sea states in Russia

MERS spreading in Saudi Arabia

Algeria finally opens its piggybank to lure back exiled youth

Suicide bombs rock Ramadi government compound

Three Palestinians killed in Gaza blast

Peace talks delayed after Palestine blamed for fatal shooting

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Al-Aqsa

Undercover New York police unit that spied on Muslims disbanded

Washington will not issue visa for Iran UN envoy

British paedophile gets 20-year sentence in Morocco

Syria army fights its way into besieged Homs

Invisible Bouteflika urges Algerians to vote

Saudi Arabia replaces powerful intelligence chief

Benflis mobilizes ‘army’ to monitor Algeria election

Syria army advances on rebel-held neighbourhoods in Homs

Egypt court bans any Brotherhood candidacies in upcoming elections

Turkey rights groups sound alarm at plan to build gay-only prisons

Kuwait coup plot video ‘neither genuine nor reliable’

Iraq Kurdistan digs trench to prevent militant infiltration from Syria

Saudi urges stern world action against Syria