Syrian Opposition in Rift over Damascus Meeting
Anti-regime activists behind street protests in Syria on Tuesday criticized opposition figures who held an unprecedented meeting in Damascus at which they called for a peaceful uprising.
"As a matter of principle, the Coordination Committees of the Syrian Revolution condemn any meeting or congress held under the banner of the regime," they said on their Facebook page, an engine of the revolt.
"Revolutionaries must take dozens of security and dissuasive measures before they can hold such a meeting, so as to avoid being jailed, tortured or eliminated," they said in a statement.
"It's only natural that questions are raised by this meeting which claims to come from the Syrian street when the Syrian regime gave its protection and media coverage, counting on it to build a civilized and legitimate image," they said.
"Nobody should have given a drop of legitimacy to the regime at the expense of the blood of our martyrs and the suffering of the detained," the statement read. "The Committees renew their commitment to the Syrian street."
A key activist and supporter of the street protests, Rami Abdul Rahman, said demonstrations calling for President Bashar al-Assad's fall and to condemn the Damascus meeting were staged on Monday night in several cities around Syria.
Thousands protested in the central city of Homs, in Hama and Deir Ezzor, both to the north of the capital, the northwestern province of Idlib, in Latakia on the Mediterranean coast and in districts of Damascus, he said.
"They reject any dialogue with the government," said the head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
He said there had also been arrests in various parts of the country.
About 160 dissidents, several of whom have spent years in jail as political prisoners, vowed at Monday's meeting to press ahead with a peaceful uprising, as Assad's embattled regime invited the opposition to talks.
The opposition figures, all independent of any party affiliation, met in a Damascus hotel.
In the face of deadly unrest that has pitted pro-democracy protesters against security forces since mid-March, the authorities on the same day invited the opposition to a July 10 meeting to discuss key changes to the constitution.