Assad must step down before dialogue: opposition figure
AMMAN - Agence France-Presse
Demonstrators hold opposition flags during a protest against Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.A group of key Syrian political opposition figures have ruled out dialogue with Damascus before President Bashar al-Assad steps down and pledged their support for the armed revolt.
The consensus was reached at talks in Amman attended by 25 opposition figures ahead of a key meeting of the Syrian National Council (SNC) in Doha to decide the future of the exiled opposition bloc, according to a statement received Saturday.
Former premier Riad Hijab, who has defected, and long-time dissident Riad Seif were among those who took part.
"Assad and his entourage leaving power is a non-negotiable precondition for any dialogue aimed at finding a non-military solution, if that is still possible," they agreed.
The Amman meeting also came out in support of "efforts underway to put in place a unified political body for the whole of the opposition." It examined "the means to unify the opposition in a way worthy of the sacrifices (of fighters) on the ground and to secure the international, regional and Arab support needed to overthrow the regime," the statement said.
The group backed the rebel "Free Syrian Army and the movements behind the revolution on the ground as legitimate means to topple the criminal regime." Among others who attended the meeting on Thursday were Ali Sadreddin Bayanuni of the Muslim Brotherhood, Wael Mirza of the SNC, veteran dissidents Walid Bunni and Michel Kilo as well as Kurdish and tribal representatives.
Reports have emerged that Washington wants an overhaul of the opposition, amid concerns that the SNC is not representative enough, with Seif touted as the potential head of a new government-in-exile.
The United States is expected to press in the Qatari capital on Sunday for a new umbrella organisation to unite the country's fractured regime opponents.
In a separate statement, Bayanuni underlined the Brotherhood's support for "the idea of a political leadership to bring together the opposition" including the SNC.