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Syrian Exiles Unite in Opposition to President Assad

A group of exiled Syrian opposition leaders announced in Brussels Friday it had formed a united front aimed at toppling the government of President Bashar al-Assad through peaceful, democratic means. Lisa Bryant in Paris spoke with one member of the front - former Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam, who is living in exile in Paris - and has this report for VOA.

Mr. Khaddam says change in Syria will happen peacefully - and it will happen quickly.

In a telephone interview, the former Syrian vice president predicts Mr. Assad and his government will be replaced within a matter of months. The Baath Party is not in control, he says. It has been used by the Assad family and by Syria's secret service.

Mr. Khaddam says the Syrian people are fed up, and they will take action. He says the new exiled opposition front - which is calling itself the National Salvation Front - has influence and sources in Syria. We were part of this structure, he says - referring to the Syrian government - and we know how to demolish it.

The new opposition front is made up of a variety of exiled opposition groups, including Islamists, Kurds, Communists and liberal groups. But Mr. Khaddam says the group is unified in wanting peaceful change. Its members have agreed a future Syrian government should be a civil one, and that religion will not play a major role.

A veteran member of Syria's Baath government, Mr. Khaddam resigned his post last June. He has since implicated President Assad in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He said Friday he believes a U.N. investigation into the assassination will soon announce a similar conclusion.

Syria denies involvement in Mr. Hariri's death.

President Assad and his vice president, Farouq al-Shara, have reportedly agreed to speak to U.N. investigators looking into Mr. Hariri's death.