Syrian Opposition May Reach Out to Some Assad Officials

Members of the opposition Syrian National Council have agreed that figures from President Bashar al-Assad’s government whose hands have not been “smeared with blood” may be invited to take part in a transitional administration.

Motee al-Bateen, a member of the group’s executive committee, said there hasn’t been agreement yet over whether such figures could be part of a future government’s leadership. The SNC is meeting in Istanbul today to discuss the issue, al-Bateen said in a telephone interview from the Turkish city.

“Those who have not been complicit in spilling Syrian blood and are not part of Assad’s gang, will be considered as ordinary citizens and have the right to be part of such a government,” al-Bateen said. “At such a time, concessions should be made so that the goals of the revolution can be met.”

While the SNC has the highest profile, it isn’t clear how much consensus there is for such a move among the rest of the anti-Assad groups. International and regional efforts have failed to end the violence in Syria, which began in March 2011 and has left at least 19,000 dead, including about 5,000 government troops, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Rising Death Toll

At least 80 people were killed across the country today including 20 in Aleppo, 13 of them during a prison revolt, the Local Coordination Committees, another opposition group, said in an e-mail. The group, as well as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the government is using helicopters to strike the suburbs of Aleppo. Fighter jets bombed eastern parts of the city, the BBC reported, citing its reporter in the area.

Arab League foreign ministers who met in Doha, Qatar on July 22 urged Assad in a statement to step down in exchange for a safe way out. Syria’s Foreign Ministry yesterday dismissed the league’s call as “blatant” interference.

In an interview published in Al-Hayat newspaper today, Arab League chief Nabil el-Arabi urged Syria’s opposition groups to unite and form a transitional government.

“There’s no talk now about political reform but about a transfer of power,” el-Arabi told the paper. “The regime cannot continue for a long time.”

Opposition groups today reported clashes across the country, including in the suburbs of the capital Damascus and in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Russia, a staunch Assad ally, “strongly” advised its citizens against travel to Syria because of the continuing violence, the Russian news service Interfax reported today.

Syrian Refugees

The unrest has forced tens of thousands of Syrians to seek shelter across the borders in Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon. Iraq’s Cabinet has decided to build camps to receive Syrian refugees at the Al-Rabiaa and Al-Qaim border crossings and allocate 50 billion dinars ($43 million) for relief and assistance for Syrian refugees and Iraqis returning from Syria, State Minister Ali Al-Dabbagh, the official government spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement today.

Saudi citizens donated more than 121 million riyals ($32 million) in addition to clothes, food, medical, supplies and jewelry on the first day of the Saudi National Campaign to Support the Brothers in Syria, state-run Saudi Press Agency said today. The five-day campaign, which began yesterday, was ordered by King Abdullah.

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