Arab league meets Assad foes on Syria's future

Ahmed Eleiba , Tuesday 15 Nov 2011

Pan Arab body confers with Syrian opposition groups to forge common vision for transition of power ahead of scheduled meeting in Cairo on troubled country's future

Burhan Ghalioun, left, Chairman of Syria's National Transitional Council, speaks to the media in Moscow, Tuesday, (Photo: AP).

The Arab League has asked Syrian opposition groups to submit their vision for a transition of power ahead of a bigger conference on Syria's future, a league official and a member of the opposition said on Tuesday.

The league agreed on Saturday to start talks with Syrian dissidents after a majority of its 22 members voted to suspend Syria's membership in the pan-Arab body from Wednesday over its violent response to protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Cairo-based organisation acted after Damascus failed to implement an Arab initiative that sought to stop the bloodshed and start dialogue between the government and opposition.

Arab and Western nations have increased Syria's isolation, although Russia still backs Damascus, saying the league had made the wrong move and accusing the West of inciting Assad's foes.

Despite the diplomatic pressure, there has been no let-up in violence. Activists said on Tuesday that at least 69 people had been killed in southern Syria the previous day, most in clashes between loyalist troops and army deserters.

The United Nations says more than 3,500 people have been killed in the eight-month-long crackdown.

League officials held informal talks with members of Syria's opposition in Cairo on Monday and Tuesday.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Arabi "asked a delegation from the Syrian National Council on Monday to present in a document its vision for Syria through a transitional period," said one league official, who asked not to be named.

The official said the same request had been made to other Syrian opposition groups.

The official said the league would stage a big conference with the Syrian opposition to discuss its plans, with a date to be set after Wednesday's Arab League meeting in Rabat, Morocco.

Spokeswoman for the SNC Basma Kodmani told Ahram Online that the meeting focused on two main issues, the first was the Rabat emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers scheduled for Wednesday and the second being the Syrian opposition meeting, under the auspices of the Arab League which it resolved staging in its last session on Syria.

Kodmani added that the Rabat agenda includes the protection of Syrian civilians suffering under the current developments on the Syrian street and that, since the Syrian regime had consented to allow 500 international observers from Arab organizations to enter the country, the opposition agreed with El-Arabi that the Syrian National Council will be a “compass” for the organisations involved, leading them to areas in need of monitoring and giving them logistical support in order to move freely and meet with the people they need to.

As for the meeting of the opposition, Kodmani revealed that a preparatory committee had already been set up to put forth a complete rendition of the conference, its members, agenda and major elements, saying there is general accord between the SNC and Arab League.

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