(MENAFN - Arab News) Syrian main exiled opposition group yesterday accused Washington of undermining the country's revolution by seeking to overhaul how regime opponents are organized.
Two days ahead of key opposition talks due in Qatar, the Syrian National Council lashed out at US criticism of the group for not being fully representative of Syria's diverse dissident groups.
"Any discussions aimed at passing over the Syrian National Council or at creating new bodies to replace it are an attempt to undermine the Syrian revolution by sowing the seeds of division," the SNC said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced frustration with the SNC this week, calling for a new more expansive opposition that would include more activists from inside Syria.
"There has to be a representation of those who are on the front line fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom," Clinton said during a tour of the Balkans, insisting the SNC "can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition."
Talk of an overhaul "is a sign of a lack of seriousness of the forces meant to support the Syrian people who are facing the murderous regime" of President Bashar Assad, the SNC said.
Reacting to accusations it is not inclusive, the group said it had grown from 280 to 420 members, that a third of its members are on-the-ground activists and that 15 percent of its members are women.
The SNC said on Thursday it had received 40.4 million (31.1 million euros) in international aid since it was set up a year ago, half of which came from Libya and the rest mainly from Qatar and the UAE.
Syrian fighters have taken full control of a strategic crossroads in the northwest that further limits the government's ability to reinforce its troops in second city Aleppo, a watchdog said yesterday.
Rebel fighters forced troops to pull back from their last position in the Saraqeb area where the main highways to Aleppo from Damascus and from the Mediterranean coast meet, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The rebels now control an area extending 25 km in all directions from the town, the Britain-based watchdog said.
"The army has withdrawn from its last checkpoint in the Saraqeb area," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The family of a freelance journalist who disappeared while covering the war in Syria plans to travel to Beirut to work for his release.
Austin Tice's father, Marc Tice, said in a statement the family plans to travel to Beirut "soon."
The 31-year-old former Marine went missing in August. He had been one of a few journalists to report from Damascus. Marc Tice says his last contact with his son was on Aug. 12.
A video clip posted online in early October showed Tice alive and being held by gunmen. It has been the only sign of Tice since his disappearance.
Meanwhile, a Turkish village lives in constant fear of Syrian war. Sixteen-year-old Nazire was out in the fields, sitting under a tree when the shooting started.
Bullets whizzed past her face and she was terrified. "If I had moved my head, I would have been shot and then nothing would have happened because they're Syrian soldiers and I'm just a villager," said the teenager in her pink trousers and flowered head scarf, in Turkey's southwestern village of Ovecci Koyu.
"We were so afraid. There were very little children and even babies with us. We rushed back so quickly, we left our shoes behind," she said, standing in her mother's sitting room with a view straight across the border to Syria.
Residents say they live in fear from airstrikes, shooting and shelling as rebels step up their nearly two-year battle against the regime of President Bashar Assad in northern Syria.
Turkey has systematically retaliated against shelling and fallen out with Assad, sparking fears in the village that things can only get worse.
When the bombardment starts, soldiers and the mosque advise residents to flee their homes, which could become targets, and shelter underground or behind walls.
Nazire's mother, Ilhan Doyman, says that the entire family lives in fear.
"It's very bad. Day and night we think about the fighting and we don't feel secure here. We can hear bombing and we can hear the sound of the planes so we can't sleep," she said in the street outside her home.