MENAFN - Arab News
Main Syrian opposition group broadens base
(MENAFN - Arab News) An organizer says the main Syrian opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council, has voted to broaden its membership to include more activists and political groups from inside the country.
Up to now, the SNC has largely been made up of exiles, prompting criticism it is out of touch with those risking their lives to topple President Bashar Assad.
Anas Abdah, an organizer of an SNC conference in Doha, says a majority of 222 delegates approved the additions yesterday, nearly doubling the size of the group's general assembly to some 420.
The US and others have urged the SNC to become more representative. However, yesterday's vote may not be enough to avert a US-backed plan to set up a new leadership group in which the SNC would play a lesser role.
Riad Hijab, Syria's former prime minister, met Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu yesterday to discuss efforts to restructure the fragmented Syrian opposition, a diplomatic source said.
"The ways to address the Syrian crisis and a reorganization among the Syrian opposition ranks were discussed," in the meeting, the source said.
The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria was also addressed, the same source added.
Hijab defected from President Bashar Assad's regime on Aug. 5 after just two months in the post.
He has been in contact with Turkish leaders and met some of them in September in Istanbul to exchange views on resolving the Syrian conflict, the source noted.
A Syrian activist group says a suicide car bomber has killed more than 50 Syrian soldiers and pro-government gunmen.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the attack in the village of Ziyara in the central province of Hama was carried out by militant group Jabhat Al-Nusra.
The death toll could not be independently verified. State-run news agency SANA said the blast occurred outside a state-run development agency. It said the blast caused deaths but gave no figure.
The Observatory also reported that an air raid on the northern town of Harem killed at least 20 rebels. It said a rebel commander was seriously wounded in the raid.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has delivered aid to hundreds of civilians trapped for months in Homs.
The aid group says it reached the neighborhoods of Khalidiya and Hamidiya in the old city of Homs after negotiations with the government and rebels.
It said in a statement late Sunday that 34 foreign delegates and Syrian Arab Red Crescent officials were able to deliver medical aid to 100 wounded people.
The Geneva-based group says it also delivered medicine, food and hygiene items to "hundreds of civilians (who) have been unable to leave Khalidiya and Hamidiya for at least four months" because of fighting.
Activist Rami Al-Sayyed, speaking from southern Damascus, said rebels had made hit-and-run attacks on pro-Assad militiamen in the city overnight before retreating to the nearby farmland of Al-Ghouta, or the old gardens of Damascus.
"The rebels are avoiding past errors of trying to hold onto territory, where they would be crushed. They are waging a war of attrition, hitting regime forces quickly and retreating to the rear," he said.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Egypt's Al-Ahram daily that Moscow, Syria's main arms supplier, was sending weapons under Soviet-era commitments for defense against external threats, not to support Assad.
"We do not side with any faction in Syria's internal battle," Lavrov was quoted as saying.
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