Similar calls were made by the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), whichalso urged a campaign of mass "civil disobedience" to ratchet upinternal pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's beleagueredregime. "We are entering a sensitive phase. The regime is on its lastlegs," Kurdish activist Abdel Basset Sayda told AFP on Sundayshortly after being named the new leader of the opposition SyrianNational Council (SNC). "The multiplying massacres and shellings show that it isstruggling," he said of mass deaths of civilians, the most recentof which saw 20 people, mostly women and children, killed in abombardment of the southern city of Daraa Saturday. At his first news conference since taking over the reins, Saydacalled on all members of the Damascus regime to defect, whilereaching out to minority groups by promising them a full say in afuture, democratic Syria. |
"We call upon all officials in the regime and in the institutionsto defect from the regime," Sayda told reporters in Istanbul. The FSA, meanwhile, called for a campaign of civil disobedience andurged officers and troops in Assad's military to jump ship and jointhe rebel ranks. "We call on Syrians to launch a general strike leading to masscivil disobedience," FSA spokesman in Syria Colonel KassemSaadeddine said in a statement. He urged officers and men in Syria's regular army "whose hands arenot tainted with blood to join the fighters." New SNC chief Sayda replaced Paris-based academic Burhan Ghalioun,who stepped down last month in the face of mounting splits thatwere undermining the group's credibility.
Activists accused Ghalioun of ignoring the Local CoordinationCommittees, which spearhead anti-government protests on the groundin Syria, and of giving the Muslim Brotherhood too big a role. Sayda, 55, has lived in exile in Sweden for two decades and is seenas a consensus candidate capable of reconciling the rival factionswithin the SNC and of broadening its appeal among Syria's myriad ofethnic and confessional groups. He is not in any political party, and SNC officials call him a"conciliatory" figure, "honest" and "independent." Sayda reached out to minority groups in Syria, following criticismof the SNC for failing to represent the country's full array ofethnic and religious groups including Arabs, Kurds, Sunni Muslims,Alawites, Christians, Druze and others. "We would like to reassure all sects and groups, especiallyAlawites and Christians, that the future of Syria will be for theall of us," he said.
"The Annan plan still exists but it has not been implemented,"Sayda said of a peace blueprint thrashed out by UN-Arab Leagueenvoy Kofi Annan that was supposed to begin with a ceasefire fromApril 12 but which has been violated daily. "We will work for this plan to be included under Chapter VII of theUN Charter, to force the regime to implement it and to leave alloptions open," Sayda said. Chapter VII allows for sanctions and, in extreme cases, militaryaction. Russia and China, infuriated by the NATO campaign in Libya lastyear, have vowed to oppose any military intervention, but BritishForeign Secretary William Hague refused on Sunday to rule out thepossibility. "We don't know how things are going to develop.
Syria is on theedge of a collapse or of a sectarian civil war, and so I don'tthink we can rule anything out," Hague told Sky News television. He likened the situation to that of Bosnia in the 1990s, "on theedge of a sectarian conflict in which neighbouring villages areattacking and killing each other." The violence has intensified despite the presence of 300 UnitedNations observers charged with monitoring the putative truce. At least 57 people were killed nationwide on Sunday -- 37civilians, 16 soldiers, three army deserters and one rebel fighter-- the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Observatory reported. The previous day at least 111 people -- 83 civilians and 28soldiers -- were killed in one of the heaviest single-day deathtolls since the nominal start of the ceasefire, the Observatorysaid.
The latest deaths bring to more than 14,100 the number of peoplekilled since March last year, including 9,862 civilians, 3,470soldiers and 783 army deserters, the Observatory said.
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