Damascus: Syrian opposition groups demanded President Bashar al-Assad’s immediate resignation on Thursday, snubbing government concessions after a week in which activists said security forces killed more than 60 people.
Opposition groups called for the “immediate resignation of President Bashar al-Assad from all functions he occupies”, in a joint declaration at the end of a two-day meeting in Turkey’s Mediterranean resort of Antalya.
They urged the holding of “Parliamentary and Presidential Elections within a period that will not exceed one year” following Assad’s ouster and vowed to work “to bring down the regime”.
But the opposition groups opposed “any foreign intervention” in Syria such as the NATO air strikes in Libya. “Everything must be done to preserve Syria’s unity and territorial integrity,” their statement read.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, said the international community needs to be more united on dealing with the Syria government’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.
“Right now the attitude of the international community is not as united as we are seeking to make it,” she told reporters in Washington, apparently alluding to Russia’s moves blocking a proposed Security Council condemnation of Syria.
Russia on Thursday cautioned against pushing for “regime change” in Syria.
“If these opposition groups think only about continuing to outright reject everything that is being proposed by the Syrian authorities, then it would be an absolutely irresponsible approach,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Some 300 Syrian activists, mostly exiles, representing a broad spectrum of political forces opposed to Assad’s regime, attended the Antalya talks, the largest gathering of the opposition since the revolt broke out.
The participants, among them members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, have snubbed a general amnesty for political prisoners, decreed by Assad on Tuesday, as too late and insufficient.
On the ground, security forces armed with heavy machine-guns shot dead 15 civilians in Rastan on Thursday, a human rights activist said, adding to a toll of at least 43 killed in towns of the flashpoint Homs region since Sunday.
Gunfire was also heard in Talbisa, another town in the same region which like Rastan the Army has encircled since the start of the week, a witness said.
In a bid to snuff out night-time demonstrations, Syrian authorities slapped a curfew on Dael, a town near the southern hotbed of Daraa where clashes erupted on Thursday, Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Anti-regime activists in Syria have called for “Children’s Friday” protests to honour the children killed in the uprising, such as 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib whom activists say was tortured to death, a charge denied by the authorities.
“The people want the fall of the regime. Tomorrow, it’s ‘Children’s Friday’ of rising up against injustice, like the adults,” the activists announced on their Facebook page Syrian Revolution 2011, an engine of the revolt.
The UN children’s agency UNICEF says at least 30 children have been shot dead in the revolt against Assad’s autocratic rule which erupted in mid-March.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special advisors on prevention of genocide and responsibility to protect civilian populations expressed alarm on Thursday at Syria’s mounting death toll.
“We are particularly alarmed at the apparently systematic and deliberate attacks by police, military, and other security forces against unarmed civilians,” said advisors Francis Deng and Edward Luck.
More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 arrested in a brutal crackdown on almost daily anti-regime demonstrations in Syria since March 15, rights organisations say.
The government insists the unrest is the work of “armed terrorist gangs” backed by Islamists and foreign agitators. Agencies