News / Middle East

Syrian Opposition Group Elects New Leader, More Deaths Reported

The new president of the Syrian National Council Abdelbaset Seida (R) talks with former President Burhan Ghalioun before a news conference in Istanbul, June 10, 2012.
The new president of the Syrian National Council Abdelbaset Seida (R) talks with former President Burhan Ghalioun before a news conference in Istanbul, June 10, 2012.
VOA News
Syria's main exiled opposition group has elected a Kurdish academic to try to unify the movement after months of infighting, and activists report at least 19 more deaths in government shelling and clashes across the country.

Senior members of the opposition Syrian National Council chose Abdulbaset Sieda to be the group's new leader at a meeting in Istanbul that lasted from late Saturday until early Sunday.

The new SNC president urged Syrians around the world to act in solidarity with citizens in the country and encouraged members of Syria's armed forces to defect from their posts.

"They [the people of Syria] are still resisting the massacres and the crimes committed by the Syrian regime," he said. "I'm calling upon all the Syrian expatriate community to organize sit-ins before their Syrian embassies. I would also call for the international observers to go to Homs. The SNC is allocating $3 million in an urgent manner as a fund for the Syrian people who are suffering and areas which are in destruction. We also call for all those in positions of responsibility in the armed forces and the government to defect from the regime."

Sieda's call for the United Nations to send monitors to Homs came as other Syrian activists reported more violence there on Sunday.

More deaths reported

The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA that fighting and shelling killed at least 12 people in Homs province.  The Observatory later reported the death of a rebel fighter during a rebel bombing of a local authority building in the town of Qusayr.  Casualties inside the building are still unknown.

Fighting elsewhere killed two soldiers in Daraa, a civilian in Idlib and two armed civilians near Aleppo. The Observatory chief also said a lawyer was killed Sunday in Damascus, where U.N. observers were dispatched to investigate reports of intense fighting from the day before.

Syrian activists say at least 96 people, mostly civilians, were killed in violence on Saturday across Syria.  The Observatory said at least 20 died when pro-government forces bombarded the southern town of Daraa, where a pro-democracy uprising began 15 months ago.

A consensus figure

The new opposition council president is in his mid-50s and lives in exile in Sweden. Other SNC members including Abdel Hamid al-Attassi described Sieda as a consensus figure.

"He is an academician. He is also well-known, a moderate man," he said. "We shouldn't claim that he has Islamic tendencies or secular tendencies. He has been approved and accepted by everyone."

Sieda replaces Burhan Ghalioun, who agreed to step down last month under criticism of his leadership.

The SNC has been plagued by internal rivalries since it was formed last year to try to present a credible alternative to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ghalioun's critics complained that he gave Islamists too powerful a role in the SNC and did not do enough to coordinate with committees of youth activists organizing protests inside Syria.

Sieda's election as SNC chief may help the opposition council to boost its support among Syrian Kurds, who make up about 10 percent of the country's population and have largely stayed on the sidelines of the anti-Assad revolt. Many Syrian Kurds fear they would continue to suffer discrimination if the majority Sunni-led opposition overthrows Mr. Assad's minority Alawite-led government.

Israel condemns violence

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused Syria of massacring its own civilians with help from Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, both allies of the Assad government.

"It is a sleight carried out not only by the Syrian government, it is being helped by Iran and Hezbollah, and the world must today see the focused axis of evil: Iran-Syria-Hezbollah. The face of this axis of evil has been exposed in its full ugliness,'' he said.

Earlier, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz accused the Syrian government of committing "genocide" and called for international military intervention. In an interview on Israeli radio Sunday, he said world powers have failed to take action and criticized Russia for selling weapons to Assad, a longtime ally of Moscow.

Russian diplomacy

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday that Moscow would support Assad's departure from power if the Syrian people agree on it. It was not clear if Lavrov's comment marked a softening of Russia's support for the Syrian president. Russia has repeatedly blocked Western and Arab efforts to impose U.N. sanctions on his government.

Speaking at a Moscow news conference, Lavrov reiterated Russia's rejection of any foreign military intervention in the Syrian conflict. He also repeated his call for nations supporting and opposing Assad to join an international conference to salvage a Syria peace plan drafted by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Michael from: USA
June 11, 2012 9:47 AM
Yes, but when the leadership out in exile encourages the armed forces to defect from their posts, it could be accused of wishful thinking, which is consistent with your principle of the lamb being afraid in the presence of the lion (even when no one is there to witness it)

by: Citizen of the World from: Everywhere
June 11, 2012 8:44 AM
The world needs to stop and understand the false religious ideologies and then act. In The Plot to Overthrow by mohammad goldstein he bluntly tells the world who a Jew IS and what a Muslim really IS; Obama has a copy, you can get it for nuttin on the net it will blow your political mind about Americas role and is laced with “inside” truth about Washington. Once we know the real foundation of Muslim theology then the world will act decisively.

by: Billington
June 10, 2012 8:41 PM
Syria does anything at all the US and UK respond like schoolyard bullies. China does and commits few billion humans rights atrocities and harassments and the US and UK along with the west are too scared to utter a breath.

Syria is innocent and is set up by the British BBC, just Google "BBC use fake photographs in Homs massacre" for propaganda purposes to foment war

This shows China is getting preferential treatment because it is another bully, bullies like each other!.

So in other news Chinese police torture over thousands of civilians and mass murder political activists, and Hillary Clinton sits idly by and is afraid to say anything. North and South Koreans are killing cats and dogs in the thousands in street markets for all to see. Jong Ils dictator in North Korea puts family of mother and children in gas oven as human experiment, mother and children hold each other in their final moments and die. No one says anything.

Unfair US and UK do something about stuff that matters, like cruel totalitarian regimes, not Syria. If Assad is deposed, only a worse dictator will replace him.

by: Anonymous from: America
June 10, 2012 1:03 PM
Now that the Syrian opposition has coalesced around a leader can appeal to a large segment of Syria’s diverse communities and Russia has decided that the Assad Regime is doomed to fail, it is now take the appropriate action to begin the transition to the beginnings of a democratic Syria. First there must be a total transportation embargo on Syria in which nothing is allowed into Syria. Second, all global insurance policies on all Syrian entities and any entity that tries to violate Syria’s transportation embargo will be permanently suspended. Third, set a date that the Assad Regime will be declared War Criminals. This designation will occur unless all leadership members of the Assad Regime take exile from Syria before this date.

by: John smith from: Arizona
June 10, 2012 12:25 PM
I have been listening to John McCain on State of the Union regarding Syria and the more I listen to McCain the more I wish he had gone to the Peace College rather than the War College.

by: SyriaLive
June 10, 2012 11:38 AM
Live from Daraa Syria 11:37AM EST 06/10/2012, gunfire in residential housing as Syrian military attempts more raids:
http://bambuser.com/v/2732418

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs