Syrian opposition says too soon to form interim government

United against Assad, opposition remains divided

BERLIN - Syrian opposition activists gathered in Berlin said Tuesday that it was too soon to form a transition post-Assad government after France said it would recognise a new provisional administration.
The opposition figures, meeting in the German capital to present a political roadmap after a possible ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, said it was premature to try to set up a new state.
"If the international community is not willing at this point to give recognition to a transitional government unanimously then it would be a wasted effort to jump into that," Afra Jalabi, a Syrian-Canadian member of the executive committee of the so-called "Day After Project", told reporters.
President Francois Hollande, speaking to French diplomats Monday, urged the Syrian opposition to form a "provisional, inclusive and representative" government, which he said France would recognise "as soon as it is formed".
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he found the Day After project "an important contribution to a new Syria" but appeared cool to Hollande's call.
"What is key is that the Syrian opposition unites and recognises democracy, tolerance and pluralism," he said. "We support the establishment of a credible alternative to the Assad regime."
Amr al-Azm, a US-based history professor who is also on the Day After committee, said he was upbeat that a democratic government could eventually supplant the Assad regime.
"The transitional government must be inclusive, and reflect the diverse forces" in the country, he said. "I expect sometime in the near future there will be a transitional government."
The group's project was initiated by the Washington-based United States Institute of Peace in partnership with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
The 45 participants included women and men, members of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups, those with experience in the Free Syrian Army and youth activists.
The project lays out goals including developing a new national identity based on civic unity, building consensus on key democratic principles and revamping the security forces to protect the rights of all citizens.
The document, the first of its kind from the Syrian opposition, offers recommendations for a new constitution and principles for institution building.
SNC member Murhaf Jouejati called the draft "a series of suggestions that will be taken or not by a provisional government, they are not written in stone".
Analysts say the opposition is marred by sharp differences in strategy for fighting the regime and goals for a post-Assad Syria.