BEIRUT - Two leading Syrian opposition parties have agreed a road map to democracy if mass protests succeed in toppling President Bashar Assad, according to a copy of the document seen by Reuters.

The leading opposition group in exile, the Syrian National Council (SNC), signed the deal with the National Coordination Committee, a group whose majority is inside Syria and which had disagreed with the SNC's calls for foreign intervention.

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That was one of several disputes that had fractured opposition groups and prevented them from reaching agreement on what a post-Assad Syria would look like.

Under their pact, the two sides "reject any military intervention that harms the sovereignty or stability of the country, without considering Arab intervention to be foreign."

Activists in Syria expressed pessimism on Saturday that Arab League monitors now visiting the country can halt Assad's nine-month crackdown on the protests and have called for Arab states to take tougher measures to stop the bloodshed.

The deal outlines a one-year transitional period, which could be renewed once if necessary. In that period, the country would adopt a new constitution "that ensures a parliamentary system for a democratic, pluralistic civil state and guarantees the exchange of power through elections for a parliament and president of the republic."

The document says the deal will be presented to other opposition groups at a conference next month. Moulhem Droubi, a top ranking member of the SNC from Syria's Muslim Brotherhood, confirmed to Reuters the document had been signed on Friday.

The document states "the people will be the source of power and basis of legality" and requires the state to be based on a separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers.

It also states religious freedom will be guaranteed by the new constitution and condemns any signs of sectarianism or "sectarian militarization."

Syria's revolt has become increasingly bloody as protests become overshadowed by armed rebels taking the fight to the security forces. The violence has sparked fears of sectarian war, as the backbone of the protest movement is Syria's Sunni Muslim majority while Assad is backed by many from the minority Alawite sect to which he belongs.

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Opposition groups have come under criticism from some of their own members for not condemning sectarianism more openly and seeking full religious freedoms.

"All violence and ethnic, religious or sexual discrimination will be rejected," the agreement says.

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