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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs