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New Syrian Opposition Leader Reaches Out to Other Groups

  • Dorian Jones

ISTANBUL - The new leader of the main opposition Syrian National Council is pledging to widen support for the organization by reaching out to Syria's minority groups.

Newly chosen Syrian National Council leader Abdulbaset Sieda says he is determined to build greater support from all sections of Syrian society in the battle to bring down President Bashar al-Assad's government.

During a news conference in Istanbul, Sieda called for action.

He says he is calling on all expatriate Syrians to organize sit-down protests outside Syrian embassies. He also asked U.N. observers to immediately go to the city of Homs and for all members of the Syrian armed forces to defect. He says the country is now at a very critical stage, with the Assad regime on its last legs.

Following the news conference, Sieda said the U.N. Security Council must intervene.

"[The] international community must decide the situation is not acceptable in Syria, now after all these massacres in Syria. Now we are [hoping] they will do something under Chapter 7," he said.

Sieda is referring to Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which permits the use of force. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Saturday his country would veto any such move.

Sieda called for Russia, China and Iran to reconsider their positions in their support of the Assad government.

He says officials in Russia and China must think very carefully about their actions, as the situation is threatening the stability of the region, if not the world. Sieda also called for Iran to reconsider its stance.

Sieda said he would reform the Syrian National Council to address growing criticism that it does not reflect the diversity of Syria and that it is dominated by the pro-Islamist Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. He said the council will be reaching out to other opposition groups.

The election of Sieda, who is a Kurd, is seen as a gesture to Syria's large Kurdish minority, which like other minority groups in Syria, has been reluctant to offer support to the uprising. Sieda supporters say he is also viewed as a neutral figure within the opposition council.

But political observers say he may have little power to push through major reforms and his election may not mark a significant shift in the organization. His predecessor, Burhan Ghalioun, was forced to resign over growing criticism he was too close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sieda was the only candidate, but a council official said about a third of the delegates voted against him for the three-month term as leader.

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