Syrian opposition hoping for united front

Updated: 2012-11-05 09:22


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DAMASCUS - Violence intensified in Syria on Sunday with explosions, clashes and incessant shelling that have left scores of people killed, while the Syrian fractured opposition huddled in the Qatari capital of Doha in the hope of closing ranks in the face of the Damascus government.

Sunday started with a big explosion that rattled the vicinity of the Dama Rose hotel in the heart of Damascus, where the UN political office is housed.

At least 11 people were reported to have been injured in the blast that has also shuttered windows in the heavily-fortified hotel, triggering the UN office to mull moving to another hotel in Damascus.

Mokhtar Lamani, head of the political office of the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, told Xinhua Sunday that the blast rocked near the hotel while he was in the resort town of Zabadani near Damascus, where he met with members of armed rebels and activists.

Meanwhile, and in the afternoon, the state-media said the armed militias massacred at least 30 people in the northwestern town of Harem in the province of Idlib.

Harem has reportedly spiraled out of the government control over the past 20 days.

Also on Sunday, the family of Mohammed Rafeh, a prominent Syrian-born Palestinian actor who had been kidnapped since Friday by what appeared to be anti-government parties, received his body.

The 30-year-old Rafeh was known of being a staunch supporter of President Bashar al-Assad. Rafeh was snatched up in the restive Damascus suburb of Barzeh on Friday.

Meanwhile, an extremist group titled "Ahfad al-Siddiq" has reportedly claimed responsibility for the killing of Rafeh.

Activists claim that the actor had slipped information to the Syrian security forces about anti-government protesters and activists.

Activists also reported Sunday heavy bombardment by government troops on a number of restive suburbs east of Damascus.

The Local Coordination Committees, an activists' network, placed the death toll of Sunday's violence at 222. Yet the account couldn't be independently verified.

In the Qatari capital of Douha, Syria's fractured opposition groups in exile started a five-day meeting backed by the United States in the hope of closing ranks to oust the Syrian leadership.

The meeting aimed at forging a united front to help end the 20- month conflict and to discuss the formation of a transition government headed by a prominent opposition figure.

Recently, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked that the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition umbrella in exile, failed to effectively represent the diverse opposition groups.

Mohammad al-Najjar, a member of the foreign relations bureau of the SNC, reportedly said that the Doha meeting is the biggest event in the history of the Syrian opposition, which would combine Syria's "revolutionary movement" including those who are inside Syria.

He added that the meeting would also discuss the draft submitted by the "National Initiative Body" for the formation of a transitional government, predicting that the headquarters of this government, if formed, would be set up in the "liberated areas" of northern Syria.

Observers said the United States is backing the formation of an interim government headed by Riad Seif, a prominent Syrian dissident and former member of the parliament.

The Doha meeting would discuss a proposal put forward by some opposition groups about setting up a body broader than the SNC to represent the Syrian opposition. The proposal is sponsored by Seif himself and enjoys the approval of the United States.

According to the proposal, the body would include 35 members, with 10 from the SNC, 10 from the revolutionary movement inside Syria, another 10 from the opposition military forces and five independent personalities.

A temporary government of technocrats would emanate from this body to run the 'liberated areas' and manage its international relations, the plan says.

However, the Doha conference has been marred with the absence of the Syrian opposition inside Syria, which said that they haven' t been invited to attend the meeting, adding that the conference aims to marginalize the opposition at home.