Sunday, Aug. 02
Latest News
  1. Iraqis protest over poor services, salty tap water
  2. Exiled Yemen PM makes symbolic Aden visit to lead restoration
  3. New Taliban leader calls for unity in ranks in first audio message
  4. Iraqi Kurdistan leadership says PKK should leave
  5. Kerry lands in Egypt on first leg of Mideast tour
  6. Iraqis protest over poor services, salty tap water
  7. Dozens dead as Syria army 'pushes back rebels near regime heartland'
  8. Yemen PM returns to Aden from Saudi exile
  9. Airport source: Yemen PM returns to Aden from Saudi exile
  10. New Taliban leader calls for unity in ranks in first audio message
  11. Iraqis vent rage at power shortages, 'corrupt' leaders
  12. Report: Some 260 PKK members killed in Turkey air strikes
  13. Iraqi Kurdistan urges Turkey to halt PKK bombardment
  14. Bin Laden relatives killed in UK plane crash
  15. Five Libyan troops killed, 18 missing after 'IS attack'
  16. 'Qaeda' suicide bombing kills 9 in Yemen
  17. Al-Qaeda in Syria attacks US-trained rebel base
  18. Kerry sets off on Mideast trip to Egypt, Doha
  19. 12 killed in Colombia military plane accident
  20. 'PKK attack' kills 2 police in tense Turkey

Syrian opposition ponders course after leader offers talks

Feb. 5, 2013 9:51 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 5, 2013 9:51 P.M.)
By: Khaled Yacoub Oweis
AMMAN, Jordan (Reuters) -- Members of the opposition Syrian National Coalition have called for an emergency meeting to discuss a controversial proposal by its head to negotiate with President Bashar Assad's government, opposition sources said.

Sheikh Moaz Alkhatib, the moderate Islamic cleric who leads the 70-member assembly, said he would be ready to meet Assad's ceremonial deputy Farouq al-Shara if Assad fulfils conditions including the release of tens of thousands of political prisoners.

"The coalition needs to convene to chart an urgent strategy after the reverberations of the initiative and seize on the momentum it has created, regardless of the reservations of some members," one coalition official said.

"The initiative is proving to the international community that Assad is not willing to compromise one millimetre and we need to take advantage of that," he added.

Thirty members of the coalition have sent a letter to its leadership demanding an emergency meeting for the whole assembly, according to coalition sources.

While a number of opposition figures have criticised Alkhatib's offer to talk to Assad's representatives, others say it could expose Assad's proposals for dialogue as hollow.

Ahead of surprise meetings last weekend between Alkhatib and the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, Assad's main backers, the coalition abandoned its policy of refusing to talk with the Assad regime unless Assad stepped down first.

Speaking after the meetings at an international security conference in Munich, Alkhatib said neither Russia nor Iran had an answer to the 22-month-old crisis and Syrians must solve it themselves. A spokesman for the coalition described the meeting with Iran as a failure.

The coalition, formed with Western and Gulf backing last year, has a "collegiate" leadership, and Alkhatib is a first among equals, rather than outright head.

Fawaz Tello, a veteran opposition campaigner who worked with Alkhatib to defend human rights in Syria before the revolt, said the initiative could prove an astute move because it puts the onus on foreign governments to act.

"Russia and Iran and even many in the rest of the international community so far have shown no willingness to put any serious pressure on Assad to accept a political solution," Tello told Reuters from Berlin.

Syrian authorities have remained silent on the initiative, but the semi-official al-Watan newspaper said on Tuesday Alkhatib was not acceptable as a negotiator.

One of the 12 members of the coalition's politburo said Alkhatib's initiative had popular support in Syria but needed to be "politically more sophisticated".

He said the politburo, the coalition's highest decision-making body, was due to meet on February 14 to be briefed by Alkhatib but the whole 70-member coalition was likely to meet in an emergency session before then.

Senior coalition member Burhan Ghalioun, one of the few secular liberals in the coalition, said he was concerned the initiative could weaken opposition fighters on the ground.

"Lots of friendly countries or those who claim friendship for the Syrian people were waiting for this exact kind of initiative to justify their failure to deliver on military support for the revolt and the protection of civilians," Ghalioun said.
Powered By: HTD Technologies
Ma'an News Agency
All rights reserved © 2005-2015