Last Updated: Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:35 pm (KSA) 09:35 am (GMT)

After Istanbul meeting, Syrian dissidents form ‘national council’ to oust Assad

Members of Syrian oppositions (L to R) Ahmed Ramadan, Khaled Hassaleh, Hassan Hashmi, Lovay Safi, Abdul Basit Sida, Adip Shishakil, Hassan Shalabi attend a news conference after their meeting in Istanbul. (Photo by REUTERS)
Members of Syrian oppositions (L to R) Ahmed Ramadan, Khaled Hassaleh, Hassan Hashmi, Lovay Safi, Abdul Basit Sida, Adip Shishakil, Hassan Shalabi attend a news conference after their meeting in Istanbul. (Photo by REUTERS)

Syrian dissidents meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday established a “national council” to coordinate a campaign to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

In a final declaration, activists said the council rejected foreign intervention or the rule of any one ethnic group and emphasized the national character of the “revolution.”

“By this (council), the first steps of a large-scale transformation in Syria are taken,” it said.

“(The) coming together of all groups is a must despite all dangers. This delegation will bring different groups together,” it added.

Months of “sacrifice” in Syria, where many have died in a crackdown by Assad’s regime, had created a “sense of unity,” activist Ahmed Ramadan said following the four days of talks.

The council would hold its first meeting in about two weeks to elect a chairperson and secretary.

“The council represents all the forces of the opposition from the left to the right,” said Louay Safi, a US-based political scientist, adding that it would look at “ways and means” to support the revolution and ensure the regime was “dismantled.”

Half the council members would be from opponents inside Syria, said Bashar al-Heraki, an engineer who was among the organizers of protests in the Syrian city of Deraa.

“Syrian people are very interested in such a council, they have been waiting this for a very long time,” he said.

The activists gathered in Istanbul were mainly from an Islamist background, but other opposition groups also took part.

Syrian dissidents have held several meetings in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey in recent weeks as Assad’s regime stepped up its crackdown on protestors across the country.

UN rights chief Navi Pillay on Monday said 2,200 people had been killed since the mass protests in Syria began in mid-March.

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