Middle East

Syrian opposition council says will avoid de-Baathification

Syrian National Council opposition group leader Abdulbaset Sieda, attends a press conference after a parlementary hearing at French National Assembly in Paris, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

STOCKHOLM: The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) does not want to ban members of the ruling Baath party from political life in a post-Assad Syria, and has learnt from Iraq's mistakes, its leader said Tuesday.

The opposition bloc believes that while members of President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle should be put on trial, there should be no sweeping sanctions against Baathist sympathisers unless they have "engaged in criminal (activity) against the Syrian people", said SNC chairman Abdulbaset Sieda.

"The rest of the government, the Baath party or other parts of the government apparatus, for us it's not a problem. We are open to that," Sieda said at a seminar in Stockholm organised by the United Nations Association in Sweden.

"I think you can learn from the mistakes that have been made in Iraq and in other countries.... We are not saying this party should be eradicated."

Iraq's de-Baathification commission removed Saddam Hussein supporters from public office after the US-led invasion deposed the Iraqi dictator in 2003.

The policy, started by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, has been controversial and critics say it may have stoked violence in the country.

Sieda also rejected accusations that the SNC does not represent the diverse blocs fighting the Syrian regime.

Calls for the Syrian opposition to unite were being used as an excuse by countries not to act, he argued. "If you don't want to do anything, you say that the problem is on the other side," he said.

The SNC will hold its general assembly, which is expected to grow to 400 from 300 members, in Doha between November 4 and 7, Sieda told AFP on the sidelines of the seminar.

"After that we will have a meeting with other opposition groups who are not part of the SNC," he said.

"With those who don't want to join, we have some views that we can discuss at this meeting."

The Doha meeting was previously scheduled for October 15, but was delayed after the umbrella organisation was flooded by requests from groups wanting to join it, SNC official Anas al-Abdi told AFP earlier this month.

However, other SNC sources said the delay reflects deep internal tensions with some groups opposed to allowing certain groups to join the ranks of the council.

The SNC has emerged as the main interlocutor of the international community since its creation about six months after the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in mid-March last year.

But divisions have dogged opposition ranks from the start, with some groups staunchly opposed to foreign intervention in the Syria conflict and violent regime change.

Last month, the SNC agreed to expand to include more opposition groups, but not the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, which favours non-violent regime change and opposes foreign military intervention in Syria.





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