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Cairo Conference for Syrian Opposition
Cairo Conference for Syrian Opposition

Rifts split Cairo Conference for Syrian Opposition

(DP-News - agencies)

CAIRO- Syrian opposition groups have failed to form a united leadership at a meeting that exposed vast disagreements that have prevented them from effectively leading the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad`s regime.

A meeting of Syria's divided opposition in Cairo ended in scuffles, a walkout and failure to agree on a joint organisation to act as a united front.

A Syrian Kurdish group quit the meeting, provoking mayhem and cries of "scandal, scandal" from delegates.

An official from the Arab League, who attended the closed meetings, said "They are so different, chaotic and hate each other," according to Reuters. Al-Jazeera, for its part, had more positive take on the meeting saying it agreed in general terms on support for the Free Syrian Army , the dissolution of the ruling Baath Party and the exclusion of President Bashar al-Assad or other senior regime figures from a place in the transition.





Syrian opposition groups struggled to form a united leadership Tuesday at a meeting in Cairo that exposed the vast disagreements that have prevented them from effectively leading the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.



Opposition group members interviewed at the Cairo conference brought into sharp relief their vast disagreements on issues not addressed in the draft charter, suggesting it papered over the divisions that have prevented them from presenting a united front to the international community. Even members of the same group disagreed on key issues.



"It's very dangerous at this point," said Abdel-Aziz al-Khayyar, who spent 14 years in Syrian prisons and is now part of the Syrian National Coordination Body. "If we fail to unify as the opposition, it is the greatest gift to the regime."

Al-Khayyar, the former prisoner, dismissed those calling for foreign military intervention as "voices that are not very important ... waiting for the world to give its kids to die for our cause."



Press reports from Cairo also noted that NCB accused the SNC of being a front for the Muslim Brotherhood and Western powers.



On Tuesday, it appeared that efforts to bring all groups under a unified leadership might collapse - not least of which because Kurdish activists walked out over how the draft charter spoke of their minority.



“The Kurds withdrew because the conference rejected to an item that says the Kurdish people must be recognized,” Reuters quoted Abdel Aziz Othman of the National Kurdish Council, as saying.
“This is unfair and we will no longer accept to be marginalized.” Othman added.



In turn, Sheik Morshid el-khuznawi, one of the Kurds to storm out, declared the conference a "failure."

Another member of the NCB, Abdel-Basit Hamo, said foreign help was welcome.

"When you're drowning and someone gives you a hand, do you ask whose hand it is first?" he asked.



Others disagreed on the role of religion in a post-Assad Syria.

"The revolution came out of the mosques, so with my respect to minorities, we want a civil state but we must also remember that more than 80 percent of Syria is Muslim," said Abdel-Ilah al-Mulham, a tribal leader from the besieged city of Homs and an SNC member.

He said he opposed laws that made men and women equal, saying this counters Islamic law in issues such as divorce and inheritance.



At one point, one attendee broke down in tears outside the meeting room.

"Thousands of martyrs and they can't unite?" said Thaer Al-Hajy, part of a group called the Syrian Revolution Coordination Union. "We are sitting here in hotels and they are down there dying."



One independent activist said all agreed that Assad must go, but that there are many different views of what follows.

"These are sensitive issues that go back to people's ideologies," said Ziad Hassan, 28. "It could take two years, not two days, to get over our differences."



The conference ended late Tuesday with an agreement on two documents, both of them vague. One provides a general outline to guide the opposition through a transitional period, while the other lays out the fundamental principles envisioned for a post-Assad Syria.



The delegates agreed in general terms on support for the Free Syrian Army, the dissolution of the ruling Baath Party and the exclusion of Assad or other senior regime figures from a place in the transition.

But they failed to reach an agreement on forming a unified body to represent the opposition.



Arguments were rife among the roughly 250 conference participants over key questions, including whether to ask for foreign military intervention to halt the violence and what role religion would play in a post-Assad Syria.



The conference was boycotted by two of the largest groups -- the Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC) and the Free Syrian Army.



International diplomacy has failed to stop the bloodshed in Syria. A peace plan put forward by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has collapsed, with the almost 300 U.N. observers sent to monitor a cease-fire stuck in their hotels because of continued violence.

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