Syrian opposition struggles to overcome disunity

March 27, 2012 13:57

ISTANBUL - A well-known Syrian dissident walked out of reconciliation talks in Istanbul on Tuesday aimed at demonstrating that Syrian opposition groups can provide an effective alternative to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The opposition groups were invited by Turkey and Qatar, which holds the rotating chair of the Arab League, to the talks to try to form a common front in the one-year uprising against Assad.

Opening proceedings were interrupted by Haitham al Maleh, a liberal Islamist and grand old man of the opposition, walking out of the hall after SNC president Burhan Ghalioun set out an action plan that called for greater unity.

Maleh, a former judge now in his 80s who has been jailed by both Assad and his father, said he was quitting the meeting because the SNC had assumed too much dominance and failed to let other activists have their say. His walkout heralded expected fierce debates over the strategy to overthrow Assad, as well as on calls for reform of the SNC, delegates said.

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