State media says army is in control of Rastan after fierce fighting with anti-government troops.
|The opposition grouping unites Syrian dissident movements across the political spectrum|
Syrian dissidents meeting in Turkey have formally announced the creation a national council aimed at toppling the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
In his opening statement on Sunday in Istanbul, Burhan Ghalioun, a Paris-based Syrian academic, said that the new council would aim to support Syrians establish a civil state, adding that the new body rejected any international interference.
“The Syrian Council is open to all Syrians. It is an independent group personifying the sovereignty of the Syrian people in their struggle for liberty.”
“It works to mobilise all categories of people in Syria and give the necessary support for the revolution to progress and realise the aspirations of our people for the overthrow of the regime, its symbols and its head.”
The opposition grouping which Ghalioun called “historic” brings together Syrian movements across the political spectrum, including the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood as well as Kurds and Assyrians.
Ghalioun had recently been designated leader of the National Transitional Council, an opposition group which has both Islamist and secular supporters.
Ghalioun said with the new group, the Syrian opposition would act as “a united front in the face of the daily massacres committed by the regime against unarmed civilians, most recently in Rastan.”
Nir Rosen, a journalist who has recently spent seven weeks in Syria, told al Jazeera that many people in the country had been worried about the lack of an alternative to Assad.
“So perhaps if [the opposition] actually have an alternative which is in place, they can show the majority of people in Damascus and Aleppo [that they have something to offer] instead of Assad and instead of chaos and civil war.”
Sunday’s development came amid reports of continuing security crackdown on protests against Assad’s rule.
Syrian troops have retaken control of the central town of Rastan after sending in 250 tanks to quell clashes between the army and deserters, human rights activists said on Sunday.
Three people were reported killed in clashes in Rastan on Saturday between the army and deserters.
Assad’s government blames the violence raging for more than six months in Syria on “armed groups”.
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva has said the death toll from the bloody crackdown has risen to more than 2,700 since March 15.