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Middle East
Opposition calls on Assad to end 'repression'
Demand comes as more than 200 opposition figures meet outside Syria's capital in bid to tackle crackdown on protests.
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2011 16:25
The UN estimates about 2,600 protesters have been killed during protests against Asad's government

Syria's opposition movement has released a statement calling on the government of Bashar al-Assad to immediately end its "acts of repression" following talks outside Damascus. 

At least 200 Syrian opposition members met near the capital, urging protesters to keep their movement peaceful and not be tempted to take up arms against Asad's deadly six-month crackdown on demonstrations.

The meeting was organised by the executive office of the National Co-ordinating Body (NCB), a group established to unite key opposition figures inside and outside Syria.

Amongst the opposition figures was leading writer Michel Kilo and Hassan Abdul-Azim, who heads the outlawed Arab Socialist Democratic Union party.

The meeting also stuck by an earlier position to oppose international intervention in Syria, though some protesters on the streets have called for unspecified outside help.

The opposition consists of a variety of groups with differing ideologies, including Islamists and secularists, but most gatherings have been held in safer locations outside the country.

Among its demands, the opposition called on the government to order soldiers back to their barracks, allow peaceful demonstrations, bring to justice those responsible for the killing of protesters and release all political detainees.

"A political solution cannot be achieved if the security and military solution doesn't stop,'' the statement said.

Opposition figure Samir Aita, who spends much of his time in France, said the movement was open to dialogue with the regime, but only after a halt to the crackdown and the withdrawal of the army.

Student protests

On Sunday, dozens of students demonstrated in the Damascus suburb of Kisweh on the first day of the school year in Syria.

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

At one high school, security forces fired into the air to disperse student protesters, according to the Local Co-ordination Committees, a Syrian activist group.

No casualties were reported.

Activists said there were also protests at an elementary school in the area, where students shouted: "There will be no classes until the president is brought down."

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that a boy succumbed to his wounds in the southern village of Sanamein two days after being shot be security forces.

General strikes

The Syrian uprising began in mid-March, amid the wave of protests in the Arab world that have toppled governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Assad has responded with force in a crackdown that the UN estimates has killed some 2,600 people.

The 22-member Arab League, as well as Syria's neighbours and allies Iran and Turkey, have called on Assad to halt the violence, but the Syrian president has not responded.

The Syrian army has been conducting operations in different parts of Syria since shortly after the uprising began.

Syria claims thugs and foreign conspirators, rather than genuine reform-seekers, are behind the unrest.

Participants in the opposition gathering warned that unless the government takes steps to end the crisis, protests will escalate, including the possibility of general strikes and civil disobedience.

Source:
Agencies
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