“We need not only bread to help our people,” opposition member Saleem Abdul Aziz al Meslet told The Associated Press. “We need support for our Syrian army. We need to speed up things and get rid of this regime.”
Part of the problem, however, is that the many of the recent battlefield successes by the rebels appear to be by groups with jihadi tendencies, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which the U.S. declared has ties to al Qaeda and put on the terrorism watch list.
The move caused a stir among the Syrian opposition.
In his speech at the conference, the newly selected president of the Syrian National Coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib, urged the U.S. to “reconsider” the designation since the Jabhat al-Nusra group was performing a valuable service in the battle against the regime.
The West fears that Islamist fighters will come to dominate the revolt. They have been at the vanguard of the conflict, in part because of their greater fighting experience. They also have claimed responsibility for a string of bomb attacks striking at the very heart of the regime, such as Wednesday’s explosion in Damascus.
“The step that we took with regard to the designation of the al-Nusra Front raises an alarm about a very different kind of future for Syria, about the direction that a group like al-Nusra will try to take Syria to impose its will and threaten the socials fabric of Syria,” Mr. Burns told journalists.
In his speech at the conference, Mr. al-Khatib did condemn “all forms of extremism” — a veiled reference to the jihadi groups operating in the country. He specifically called for reconciliation with the country’s Alawite minority, from which Mr. Assad comes, and urged Alawites to launch a campaign of civil disobedience against the regime.
“We call on them to accept the extended hand and work together against the violence of the regime,” he said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.