Middle East

Syria opposition group boycotts Tunis meeting

BEIRUT: A Syria-based opposition group said it was boycotting the international "Friends of Syria" meeting being held on Friday in Tunis on the future of the country, complaining of exclusion and fearing escalated militarization.

The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC) denounced what it described as attempts to leave the door open to militarize the uprising against the regime of Bashar Assad, and for foreign military intervention.

"We have seen a dangerous trend towards ... specifying who represents the Syrian people ... leaving the issue of armament vague and opening the door to accept the idea of foreign military intervention," a statement said.

All that came "despite assurances from the Tunisian President (Moncef Marzouki) that opposition groups will be treated equally and that there will not be a recognition of one party at the expense of the others, and that foreign military intervention is a red line and that increasing militarization is dangerous."

The Syrian National Council, formed in exile, is the largest umbrella opposition group.

A draft final declaration of the Tunis meeting calls calls for the Arab League to convene a meeting of the Syrian opposition and praises the SNC.

But it does not appear to give the SNC exclusive recognition, calling it only "a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change."

The NCCDC had already sent a delegation to Tunis, headed by prominent Paris-based figure Haitham Manaa.

Headed by Hassan Abdel Azim, the NCCDC groups Arab nationalists, as well as Kurds, socialists and Marxists, and independent opponents like economist Aref Dalila.

It strongly opposes a Libya-style military intervention in Syria to topple the Assad regime, despite a deadly crackdown on protests that erupted in March 2011, in which more than 7,600 people have been killed, according to monitors. More than 60 nations are gathering for the "Friends of Syria" conference, which will seek to further isolate the regime and support the opposition.





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