News / Middle East

    Syrian Opposition Figure Offers Transition Plan

    Outgoing Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib speaks during a news conference after a Friends of Syria group meeting at the Adile Sultan Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, April 21, 2013.
    Outgoing Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib speaks during a news conference after a Friends of Syria group meeting at the Adile Sultan Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, April 21, 2013.
    VOA News
    A prominent Syrian opposition figure has proposed a transition plan for the war-torn country, requiring President Bashar al-Assad to hand power to a senior aide and leave the country with 500 supporters.

    The outgoing head of the main opposition Syrian National Coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, published the plan on his Facebook page on Thursday as he met with other coalition members in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

    The SNC was considering whether to support a U.S.-Russian initiative calling for the Syrian opposition and government to attend a peace conference next month to resolve their two-year conflict.

    Khatib's plan would give Assad 20 days to accept its terms and another month to dissolve parliament and transfer all of his powers to Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara or Prime Minister Wael al-Halki.

    One of them would then lead an interim government for 100 days, during which the Syrian military would have to be restructured. A Syrian transitional government formed with international guarantees would then take over.

    The proposal also calls for the Syrian government to release all political prisoners. It indicates a willingness by some Syrian opposition figures to work with government officials deemed not to have played a direct role in Assad's deadly crackdown on dissent.

    It is not clear whether the Sunni cleric's plan will be formally endorsed by the opposition coalition. He resigned as SNC chief in March in frustration at the lack of international support for the Syrian opposition.

    The Syrian government had no immediate reaction to Khatib's plan. But, Assad has vowed to remain in the presidential post that he inherited from his late father in 2000. He also has expressed a determination to run for re-election next year.

    Another SNC member Louay Safi said the coalition needs more assurances from world powers about the outcome of the proposed conference before it will agree to attend.

    "We have a lot of unknowns about the Geneva conference. I mean, we are for any conference that helps transition the situation into an elective government away from the dictatorship, but that will be our condition - we are not going to accept any negotiations that do not indicate that Assad is going to be out," said Safi.

    Eleven Western and Arab nations that support the SNC and call themselves the "Friends of Syria" met in Amman, Jordan on Wednesday to discuss the proposed peace conference.

    In a joint statement, they stressed the need for a political solution in Syria, with a transitional government that would not include Assad, members of his government or associates with "blood on their hands."

    Russia has called for Iran to be included in the conference. Both nations are longtime allies of Assad.

    But, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to object to Iran's involvement in the process.

    Speaking at an Amman news conference this week, he accused Tehran of perpetuating what he called Assad's "campaign of terror" by sending personnel to help thousands of Lebanese Hezbollah militants to fight alongside Syrian troops.

    In a statement, the Friends of Syria denounced the involvement of foreign fighters in the Syrian conflict, calling it a growing threat to regional stability.

    Lebanese security officials said Thursday that fighting between supporters of rival sides in the Syrian conflict continued overnight in the northern city of Tripoli, with the latest battles killing at least five people.

    Street fighting has erupted in Tripoli repeatedly during the Syrian crisis, which has enflamed tensions between the city's Sunnis, who largely support Syrian Sunni rebels, and Alawites who mostly back Syrian President Assad - a fellow Alawite.

    Lebanese officials said Tripoli's violence has killed at least 16 people since Sunday.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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