Syria opposition meet in Turkey to push regime change

Reuters , Wednesday 1 Jun 2011

Syrian opposition activists opened a conference in Turkey on Wednesday to discuss ways of a regime change in their country and draw up a "roadmap" for a peaceful transition

More than 300 dissidents, mostly exiles representing various opposition and ethnic groups, gathered at a hotel in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya, a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decreed an amnesty for political prisoners which they dismissed as inadequate. Organisers said their purpose was to draw up a "roadmap" of a peaceful and democratic transition in Syria.

The three-day gathering -- titled "Conference for Change in Syria" -- opened with the Syrian national anthem and a minute of silence for "the martyrs" killed in bloody crackdowns on street protests simmering in Syria since March.

"Freedom, freedom" and "the people are united" the participants chanted. The meeting was expected to end Friday with a joint statement.

The conference was preceded Tuesday by Assad's announcement of a general amensty for all political prisoners, including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
The head of the Muslim Brotherhood delegation in Antalya, Melhem al-Durubi, dismissed the move and insisted the Assad must go. "The Syrian people are calling for the fall of the regime," he told AFP.

"This announcement is too little too late... It is Assad himself who should be granted amnesty because he killed his people. He should simply leave," he said, adding that Assad "should be tried for his crimes."

Speakers at the conference condemned "massacres" of civilians and urged Assad's departure.

"I want democracy. Those who committed those heinous crimes must be tried," Dugmush Dia al-Din, a 25-year-old student who came from Damascus, told AFP.
"The regime is not legitimate and has no longer a ground to stay on," said the activist, who has been jailed twice for participating in the revolt.

On Tuesday, a group of Assad supporters demonstrated at Antalya airport, brandishing portraits of the Syrian leader, as opposition delegates arrived for the conference.
Turkish police stepped up security measures around the conference venue on Wednesday.

More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 arrested in a brutal crackdown on almost daily anti-regime demonstrations in Syria since March 15, rights organisations say.

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