Syrian opposition to Assad: quit now
ANTALYA - Syrian opposition groups called Thursday for President Bashar al-Assad's immediate resignation, in a joint declaration at the end of a two-day meeting in Turkey.
The statement, read out in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya, urged the "immediate resignation of President Bashar al-Assad from all functions he occupies."
It urged the holding of "parliamentary and presidential elections within a period that will not exceed one year" following Assad's resignation.
The dissidents vowed "to do whatever it is up to them to bring down the regime" in Syria, welcoming the declaration with applause.
In a message to the international community, which has been piling up pressure on Damascus for political reform, the declaration voiced opposition to "any foreign intervention" in Syria such as in Libya.
"Everything must be done to preserve Syria's unity and territorial integrity," it said.
Some 300 Syrian activists, mostly exiles, representing a broad spectrum of political forces opposed to Assad's regime, attended the talks, the largest gathering of the opposition so far.
The participants, among them members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, have snubbed a general amnesty for political prisoners, decreed by Assad Tuesday, as a belated and inadequate move.
Organisers of the gathering -- titled "Conference for Change in Syria" -- have said their purpose is to draw up a "roadmap" for a peaceful and democratic transition in their country.
They have set up several committees to coordinate anti-regime action, notably to explore ways of supporting protesters in Syria, both in financial and logistic terms, in areas such as legal assistance and strengthening Internet media backing the revolt.
About 50 regime supporters demonstrated near the conference venue Thursday, brandishing posters of the Syrian president and chanting in English "We love Bashar."
"These are people on the payroll of the United States and Israel, they have no right to represent the Syrian people," one of the demonstrators, Nidal Said, said of the opposition activists.
Turkish riot police, deployed in numbers in the area, kept the demonstrators away from the hotel where the conference was held.
More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 arrested in a brutal crackdown on almost daily anti-regime demonstrations in Syria since March 15, rights organisations say.