Another senior figure walks out on SNC

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Head of the opposition Syrian National Council Burhan Ghalioun (C) is pictured as he arrives in Rome 12 May 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Alessandro Bianchi)

Published Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A prominent dissident resigned from the Syrian National Council (SNC) on Tuesday, dealing another blow to the Istanbul-based opposition that has seen several senior figures quit in the last few months.

The resignation of Fawaz Tello came hours after the council's general secretariat, a body of 45 of whom 33 were present, re-elected Burhan Ghalioun as president for another three-month term at a meeting in Rome organized by the Italian government to prod the SNC toward reform.

Tello, one of a minority of liberals in the 300-350 member SNC, said he was leaving because the council had been avoiding democratic reform and resisting international efforts to re-organize itself and unify the opposition to President Bashar Assad.

"I left Syria three months ago to help the council be servant of the revolution and transform it into a democratic model," Tello said in a statement.

"But the efforts that I and others have been making have been thwarted by the personal ambitions of those holding the reins of the council," he added.

Tello, a political prisoner from 2001 to 2006, was one of the leaders of the Damascus Spring, a brief period of public demands for political freedom that Assad crushed a year after he succeeded his late father, President Hafez Assad, in 2000.

Ghalioun, a supposed liberal politician backed by majority Islamists in the SNC, has been head of the council since it was formed in Istanbul in August as an umbrella organization to coordinate efforts against Assad.

Tello said a decision by the council to snub an Arab League invitation for a broad opposition meeting in Cairo this month was a factor behind his resignation.

The SNC said it declined the invitation to go to Cairo because the invitation had only been for individual SNC members, not for the council itself.

"The SNC has been foiling the most serious of attempts to unite the opposition," said 52-year-old Tello.

"The opposition has also lost a golden opportunity to declare unequivocally that it is against a dialogue with murderers within the Assad regime and to emphasize that there is no alternative except its downfall," he added.

Several senior opposition figures have left the SNC since the beginning of the year, saying its leadership is preoccupied with personal rivalries and not doing enough to back an increasingly militarized revolt.

Among them is Haitham al-Maleh, a lawyer and former judge who resisted Assad family domination for decades, and Kamal al-Labwani, a physician who led a failed insurgency from within the SNC to lessen the control of Islamists on the organization.

Syria's Muslim Brotherhood is said to be exerting heavy influence on the SNC, to the dismay of secular and liberal activists.

Tello said he was also leaving the Damascus Declaration, a group of veteran opposition leaders that led peaceful resistance to Assad before the revolt, in favor of becoming an independent.

Syria's opposition in general has been fractured since the beginning of the revolt, and have struggled to reconcile their differences.

While the SNC dominates the headlines abroad, a number of internal opposition groups continue to operate outside of its framework, placing doubt on its influence on the ground in Syria.

Several internal opposition groups have dismissed the SNC as a pawn for Saudi Arabia and Qatar, accusing the group of serving the interests of the autocratic Gulf states and not that of the Syrian people.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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