x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Opposition raises stakes in Syria with 'government-in-waiting'

Gathering of 'National Salvation Council' will take place in Qaboun, a neighbourhood that has played a leading part in pro-democracy demonstrations and will include the underground Local Coordination Committees protest group among the delegates.

DAMASCUS // Opposition activists and demonstrators plan to hold an open political meeting in a neighbourhood of Damascus that has been strongly anti-Assad tomorrow, to begin forming a government-in-waiting.

The gathering, dubbed a National Salvation Council, will take place in Qaboun, a neighbourhood that has played a leading part in pro-democracy demonstrations.

Protesters from Local Coordination Committees (LCC) will be among the delegates. Until now, LCC members have remained underground, not openly joining Syria's established political opposition groups in a united platform.

Meshaal Tammo, a leading activist and organiser behind the event, which is also backed by Haithem Al Maleh, a leading civil rights activist and former judge, and other renowned dissidents, said: "Opposition meetings must include the youths who are risking their lives in the street for freedom. They are the real power behind the uprising."

Mr Tammo described the conference as "raising the stakes" in the struggle over Syria's future.

Drawing up a shadow government will break new ground for opposition groups, as they to aim to show that President Bashar Al Assad is not indispensable.

The authorities have not given permission for the meeting to take place, and some dissidents say they expect it will be prevented from going ahead by security services.