(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Syria's main opposition groups joined together on Sunday to call on the international community to take action to protect Syrian people facing a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests, Reuters reported.
A statement issued in Istanbul on behalf of the newly formed National Council rejected foreign intervention that "compromises Syria's sovereignty" but said the outside world had a humanitarian obligation to protect the Syrian people.
"The Council demands international governments and organisations meet their responsibility to support the Syrian people, protect them and stop the crimes and gross human rights violations being committed by the illegitimate current regime," the statement said.
It also said the Muslim Brotherhood, the Damascus Declaration - the main grouping of established opposition figures - and grassroots activists all had joined the National Council.
"The fact that Islamists, secular figures and activists in the ground are now on one council is a significant," a diplomat in the Syrian capital Damascus said, according to Reuters.
"But they still have to demonstrate that they could be politically savvy and able to fill any political vacuum. They need a detailed action plan beyond the generalities of wanting a democratic Syria."
The United Nations says 2,700 people, including 100 children, have been killed in six months of protests against President Bashar Assad.
The Istanbul declaration was read out by Bourhan Ghalioun, a secular professor of politics living in France.
He was flanked by Islamists, including Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Riad Al Shaqfa, Christian and Kurdish politicians and Samir Nashar, a member of the Damascus Declaration.
Among those represented in the Damascus Declaration are former parliamentarian Riad Seif, seen as possibly playing a leadership role if Assad were to fall, and Riad Al Turk, Syria's top dissident.
Turk, 81, but still operating underground, has moral authority over the diverse opposition, having spent 25 years in jail as a political prisoner, including almost 18 in solitary confinement.
France has already publicly supported the National Council, but it has not yet won endorsement from the United States or Syria's powerful neighbour Turkey, which has been enraged by what it describes as brutal killings south of its border, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, on the ground, Agence France-Presse quoted the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying that the army had "taken complete control of Rastan, and 50 tanks left on Sunday" the town in Homs province, 160km north of Damascus.
"Many houses have been destroyed there and the humanitarian situation is very bad," the Britain-based rights watchdog said.
"We have information that dozens of civilians were killed and buried in the gardens of houses as the army shelled the town," it added.
Officers who had deserted announced their "retreat from Rastan" in a statement on Friday night.
Three people were reported killed in clashes in Rastan on Saturday between the army and deserters as the Assad regime pursued its deadly crackdown on dissent.
The Syrian Observatory reported the arrest in Homs of Mansur Atassi, 63, a leader of a coalition of opposition groups, saying he was detained in his office by security agents.
It also said the bodies of three civilians detained since Thursday were returned to their families in Khan Sheikhun near the border with Turkey in Idlib province.
The official SANA news agency, meanwhile, said a train driver and his helper were injured in an accident caused by an "armed terrorist group" at Ubin in Idlib province.
"An armed terrorist group targeted a freight train this morning [Sunday], wounding the driver and co-driver and causing three cars to derail," it said, according to AFP.
Assad's regime blames the violence raging for more than six months in Syria on "armed groups".