Middle East News
Syrian opposition form transitional council
Aug 29, 2011, 11:17 GMT
Cairo - Members of the Syrian opposition in Turkey announced Monday the formation of a National Transitional Council to lead activists calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.
The council includes 94 members, 42 of whom are inside Syria. The council will be headed by prominent opposition figure Burhan Ghalioun, a sociologist at Paris Sorbonne University.
A spokesman for the group said these members were chosen after consultations with activists and protesters in Syria, according to Al Jazeera broadcaster.
Hundreds of Syrian dissidents gathered in Istanbul last month, where participants agreed on forming a transitional council, to unify opposition.
Since mid-March, pro-democracy protests have engulfed most of Syria. Government forces have ruthlessly cracked down on protests against almost five decades of Baath Party rule, killing over 2,200 people and triggering a wide-scale international condemnation.
At least two people were killed on Monday in the town of Sarmein in the northern province of Idlib, and one was killed in the Damascus suburbs area, as security forces continued their crackdown across the country.
Several people were injured and houses were burnt down in the central town of Rastan when security forces launched a raid to carry out arrests, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Residents of Rastan were fleeing on Monday, hearing heavy gunfire and fearing an attack after security forces surrounded it, activists said.
People were leaving after troops began deploying at the southern entrance of the town, in Homs province, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria online group said.
Rastan has been the site of intense anti-regime protests.
In Turkish newspaper interviews, President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan both sharply criticised the brutal crackdown by Syrian forces against government opponents.
Both called on al-Assad to stop the actions against the demonstrators if he wished to avoid the fates of the leaders of Egypt and Libya.
'We have now reached the point where everything is too little, too late. We have lost confidence (in al-Assad),' Gul was quoted as saying.
Al-Assad has been defiant to the rallies, and issued few decrees in August, as part of his reform promises aimed to quell the protests.
On Sunday, he endorsed a decree to prohibit the imprisonment of journalists and to allow wider access to information. Earlier this month, decrees on the formation of political parties and general elections were passed.