Syria VP hosts 'national dialogue,' opposition boycotts

Shara says conference aims to achieve a "pluralistic and democratic country"; opposition fears Assad government will exploit talks while arresting and killing protesters across country.

Syria protest flag 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Syria protest flag 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara opened a conference in Damascus Sunday aiming to start a "national dialogue" with the opposition, whose leading members boycotted the event, Bloomberg reported.
Faruq told the conference that he hoped that Sunday's meeting would mark the "start of national dialogue" which will make Syria a more "pluralistic and democratic country."
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Many opposition figures rejected Syrian President Bashar Assad's call for dialogue as insufficient, saying authorities could exploit them while mass killing and arrests continue, adding that the time is not right for talks.
According to Syrian magazine Syria Today, delegates at the meeting included independent MPs, and members of the ruling Ba'ath party that has been in power since 1963.
At the end of June, Assad announced its intention to invite the country's leading intellectuals to talks, promising reform while simultaneously continuing the violent crackdown on anti-government protests across Syria.
Demonstrations have been staged across the country for nearly four months, with protesters demanding that Assad step down and allow free democratic elections.
Assad has refused to step down, and has often sent security forces to violently quell protests, arresting dissidents and shooting live fire into crowds.
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