ISTANBUL - A meeting of Syrian opposition in Istanbul ended on Wednesday with a call for the army to protect its people and side with the protesters against President Bashar Assad's government.
Attended largely by exiled dissidents, the gathering will be followed by another in Istanbul on Saturday, which the organizers hope to twin through video-link with a "National Salvation" conference planned by opposition in Damascus.
"The Syrian army is the guardian of the people and the state. Therefore we call on the army to do its duty and protect people from the cruelty of the regime and stand with brave protesters," said a declaration read at the end of Tuesday's meeting.
It said Syrian forces should withdraw from the country's villages, towns and cities. Human rights groups say at least 1,400 civilians have been killed since protests began in March against Assad's autocratic rule.