Syrian opposition to choose new leader


The Syrian National Council (SNC) will meet during the weekend to replace Burhan Ghalioun who resigned as the leader of the opposition bloc late last month, SNC officials said on Monday.

The meeting will take place Saturday and Sunday in Istanbul, where a vote might be abandoned if there is a “consensus” candidate as it appears to be, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

“So far the consensus candidate is Abdel Basset Sayda,” a Kurdish member of the SNC’s executive office, one source said, while the other confirmed that Sayda could be appointed as the new SNC leader.

Sayda, who lives in exile in Sweden, joined the SNC as an “independent activist,” according to his friend Massud Akko, who is also Kurdish.

He is member of the SNC’s executive bureau and heads the bloc’s human rights department.

He was born in 1956 in Amuda, a mostly Kurdish city in the northeastern Syrian province of Hassakeh.

“He is honest, level-headed and cultured,” Akko said.

Ghalioun tendered his resignation on May 17 to avert divisions within the opposition bloc, after activists on the ground accused him of monopolizing power. His resignation was accepted the following week.

He had led the SNC by consensus since the bloc’s formation in October last year and was elected chairman in a vote held in Rome on May 15.

France and Germany meet on Syria

Meanwhile French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Syria’s regime will “end up falling under the weight of its crimes”.The French Minister Laurent Fabius made a statement after talks with his German counterpart on Monday.

“There have been so many abuses,” he said. “No lasting solution is possible while Mr Assad is in power,” Fabius told a joint press conference with Guido Westerwelle, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Asked about German-French differences over possible military intervention in Syria, Fabius said the “central” point for Paris was that any action could only be carried out under United Nations auspices.

“Modalities (for action in Syria) must be defined by the United Nations,” he said, on his first visit to the German capital since being appointed after President Francois Hollande’s victory last month.

He added: “In the Security Council, decisions are difficult since the Russians and the Chinese have stated their opposition to such or such decision.

“The modalities chosen will depend on the development of the situation and on the conduct of Mr Assad himself,” he said.

For his part, Westerwelle said the German government “shared 100 percent” the anger expressed by Hollande last week when he raised the possibility of military intervention in Syria under a U.N. mandate.

Berlin rejects military action in Syria and wants all diplomatic avenues pursued.

Westerwelle, who is due to visit Syria’s neighbors this week in a bid to help stop the bloody strife threatening regional stability, said Berlin “wants a political solution”.

Germany favored stepping up international pressure on Damascus, he said.

“Nobody must hold a protective hand over the regime,” Westerwelle said, alluding to Russia without naming it.

Syrian regime forces killed at least 23 people in deadly battles with armed opposition groups nationwide on Monday according to Local Coordination Committees.

Fresh clashes erupted between the regime and its foes in Idlib province late on Sunday, killing two opposition fighters, as explosions were reported in Damascus province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Observatory said Syrian forces used helicopter gunships to strafe positions in the northeastern province of Deir Ezzor.