SNC rift over Syrian transitional government

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Syrian National Council (SNC) leader, Abdel Basset Sayda takes part in a press conference in Moscow, on 11 July 2012, shortly after the talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (Photo: AFP - Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Published Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A spokesperson for Syria's external opposition has denied accepting a unity government led by a member of the regime, contradicting a statement by another SNC member.

The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) will not accept a unity government led by a member of the regime, spokeswoman Kodmani said Tuesday,

"There was never any question of a national unity government led by a member of the regime," Bassma Kodmani told AFP, hours after another SNC spokesman, George Sabra, said the council was ready to agree to a transfer of President Bashar al-Assad's powers to a regime figure who would take power for a transitional period.

Sabra said on Tuesday that the SNC "would agree to the departure of Assad and the transfer of his powers to a regime figure, who would lead a transitional period like what happened in Yemen."

"We accept this initiative because the priority today is to put an end to the massacres and protect Syrian civilians, not the trial of Assad," Sabra said.

Asked about which regime figure could lead such a transition, Sabra said "Syria has patriotic figures both in the regime and among officers in the Syrian army who could take such a role," without giving further details.

The gaff by the Western-backed opposition exposes a rift within the council between voices for dialogue and a political solution to end the violence, and the hardline elements determined to support a civil war.

The SNC is heavily influenced by the hardline Muslim Brotherhood, which has previously thwarted attempts by the council to forge political alliances with other opposition groups seeking an end to the violence.

It is unclear whether radical Islamists were involved in the embarrassing retraction, issued by Kodmani, but their divisive presence in the council has previously forced many high-profile members to quit the SNC.

Sabra's comments were cautiously welcomed by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) headed by Ali Haidar, Syria's new Minister of National Reconciliation.

"It's an improvement from their side. We welcome any kind of political discussions. Any political initiative is more than welcome, but it has to be achievable and reasonable," Elia Samaan, senior member of the SSNP's political bureau told Al-Akhbar from Damascus.

Haidar, who has supported opposition demands for democratic change, was appointed by Assad to negotiate between the regime and opposition groups in search of a political settlement to the crisis.

While welcoming Sabra's comments, Samaan warned that any precondition asking for Assad's resignation would complicate talks.

"If you want to negotiate, sit on the table and discuss whatever you want. But insisting on preconditions before talks complicates things. Any kind of precondition will not lead to any results," he said.

The SSNP figure added that his party is ready to engage any faction, so long as they do not call for foreign military intervention or support violence.

"We're open to discuss with everybody, as long as no one calls for foreign intervention and acknowledges that continued violence will not lead to any solution," he said.

The SNC rift comes after Syrian government forces repelled a rebel offensive on Damascus last week, and battles against another rebel offensive in Aleppo.

Speculation in political circles is that defected Syrian general Manaf Tlass, who has been endorsed by the West, may play a role in a transitional government.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)


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