Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

November 8, 2012

Syrian president says he will not leave country

(Continued)

He called on the U.S. to join his country in doing more to shape the Syrian opposition into a coherent force, saying the re-election of President Barack Obama is an opportunity for the world to take stronger action to end the deadlocked civil war.

Washington has been pressing for a new, more unified opposition leadership that will minimize the role of exiles and better represent those risking their lives on the front lines. The initiative was being discussed Thursday at an opposition conference in the Qatari capital of Doha.

The meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, both leading backers of the Syrian rebels, as well as Western diplomats and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby. On the table is a proposal to set up a new leadership team that would become the conduit for international support to rebel-held areas in Syria. The U.S. has suggested that the main group in exile, the Syrian National Council, can no longer claim a key leadership role and must make way for those representing activists inside Syria.

Under the plan, the SNC would receive only 15 of 50 seats in the new group and effectively be sidelined. The author of the plan, Syrian dissident Riad Seif, SNC leaders and other opposition groups were meeting in a Doha hotel to try to hammer out an agreement.

Further down the road, the international community hopes for negotiations on a political transition between the opposition and those in the Assad regime who were not involved in bloodshed and corruption. The opposition has agreed to such talks, in principle, but said it could take many more months of a war of attrition before Assad is ready to leave Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whose government has remained one of Syria's most loyal and powerful allies, criticized the West for supporting the opposition, saying foreign powers should try to force both sides to stop fighting. Russia has shielded Damascus from strong international action at the U.N. Security Council.

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