Syrian exiles planning regime change

Key opposition figures, including former VP Khaddam, hold talks in London.

khaddam 298.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
khaddam 298.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Key Syrian opposition figures met Monday in London to discuss ways of working together to overthrow President Bashar Assad's regime. Describing Assad's regime as corrupt, the opposition leaders said they were aiming to bring democracy to Syria, which has been ruled by Assad since the death of his father, Hafez, in 2000. Two of the group's most prominent members include former Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam and Ali Sadr el-Din Bayanouni, head of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The two exiled leaders forged an alliance in March after long being at odds, forming a "front of national salvation" and urging the formation of a transitional government. The alliance has pledged that the proposed transitional government would abolish the 1963 state of emergency and release all political prisoners. Diverse groups are represented in the front, including former members of the ruling Baath party and the outlawed Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Sunni Muslim group blamed for a campaign of assassinations and bombings in Syria in the early 1980s that was brutally crushed by authorities. It also includes a representative from the Kurdish minority as well as liberal and democratic groups. A member of Syria's ruling elite for three decades, Khaddam broke with Assad last year and fled to Paris with his family. He is seen as being wary of Assad. Khaddam touched off an outcry when he told an Arab satellite channel that Assad had threatened former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri months before the leader's assassination last year. Assad denied the allegation. Khaddam was a close friend of Hariri, who was killed along with 20 other people in a massive truck bombing in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005. A UN investigation has implicated top Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the assassination. On Sunday, Syria asked Interpol's office in France to hand Khaddam over to face questioning on treason and corruption charges.