Former Syria VP leads new opposition group

Filed on November 8, 2011
Former Syria VP leads new opposition group

A new Syrian opposition group backed by Bashar al-Assadís former Vice-President Abdul-Halim Khaddam wants to unify the various opposition strands

PARIS - A new Syrian opposition group backed by Bashar al-Assad’s former Vice-President Abdul-Halim Khaddam said on Monday it wanted to unify the various opposition strands and use “all means” necessary to oust the Syrian leader.

The National Committee to Support the Syrian Revolution was unveiled in Paris on Monday with 65 founding members including lawyers, businessmen and doctors as well as Khaddam, who served Assad and his father Hafez al-Assad for nearly 30 years.

The group, which has yet to make contact with other opposition groups such as the Syrian National Council (SNC), said it had grown frustrated by the various opposition groups’ inability to unite and cited a lack of an emblematic figure as a main obstacle to galvanising Syrians.

“This committee is not in competition with anybody,” Khaddam, who fled to Paris in 2005, said. “We don’t want to discredit the SNC or its members and respect everybody that is working towards ending the massacres, but for now the opposition is not united ... and despite all these initiatives we don’t have a clear message — to bring the regime down.”

Khaddam tried four years ago to establish a government-in-exile but fell out with other opposition groups and is widely mistrusted by Syrian dissidents who recall his time in office.

“We will support the opposition by using all means whether inside or outside the country,” he said.

Troops loyal to Assad have moved into a residential district of Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, after six days of tank bombardment that killed scores of people and wounded hundreds in the city in a continued military crackdown to suppress protests and an emerging insurgency.

Assad’s government agreed last week to a plan by Arab states to end hostilities, withdraw troops from cities and free prisoners, but the opposition says violence has continued and dismissed the government’s motives.

National Committee President Talal Al-Terkawi, a Syrian businessman from Homs now based in Saudi Arabia, said Arab nations had still not understood that Damascus was merely playing for time. “Arab nations have to understand once and for all the will of the government doesn’t exist to stop the massacre. They are trying to gain time to continue killing,” Terkawi said.

“Our people can’t continue to wait. The Arab League has failed and the Arab world has to understand once and for all that the desire of the Syrian regime to find a solution and stop the repression doesn’t exist,” he said.

Terkawi called for the international community to intervene in Syria and establish a no-fly zone similar to Libya that would enable army defectors to “rise up”. There has been no sign of an appetite in the West for military intervention.

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