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.

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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

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