Syrian opposition’s first congress to be held in Tunis

A Syrian opposition leader announced on Thursday the movement would hold its first congress in the Tunisian capital in September, after the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

“This congress aims to unite the Syrian opposition inside and outside Syria and to work out a working agenda for a post-Bashar al-Assad stage,” Muheddin Ladhikani, secretary general of the Syrian Democratic Movement, said.

President Assad is under increasing international pressure day after the United Nations Security Council condemned his deadly crackdown on anti-regime demonstrators.

“We need to break the Arab silence about what is happening in Syria,” Ladhikani added.

Tunisian political parties including the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and Ennahda, the country’s main Islamist movement, were setting up a support committee for the Syrian people, he said.

Details of that initiative would be announced on Friday, said the London-based activist.

Assad issued a decree on Thursday allowing opposition political parties, state media said after the UN Security Council condemnation.

The continuing bloodshed drew strong remarks from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose country has so far stonewalled firm UN action, saying the situation is “dramatic”, and expressing “enormous concern”.

And the White House sharpened its rhetoric, saying Syria would be a “better place” without Assad, whom it accused of leading his country and the Middle East down a “dangerous path”.

Witnesses and activists said security forces killed at least 37 people on Wednesday, 30 of them as tanks shelled the flashpoint protest hub of Hama.

Syrian activists say 1 600 civilians have been killed since the regime launched its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators mid-March. — Sapa-AP

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