07/11/2011, 00.00
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Damascus: attempts at government-opposition dialogue, but police continue to shoot

by Naman Tarcha
Representatives of the government, political parties and independent members meet in Damascus,. But many opponents do not attend, because in spite of dialogue the repression continues. Slow return of refugees from Turkey, while the Turkish foreign minister expected in Damascus of in the coming days.
Damascus (AsiaNews) - A national dialogue began yesterday in Damascus the first attempt, after four months of demonstrations and clashes that have registered have registered a heavy toll in human lives. The initiative was promoted by the National Dialogue formed by President Bashar al-Assad, and took place in the Sahara congress centre. Three committees are responsible for examining and presenting proposals for reforms. Public figures and representatives of the government and opposition were invited, and the meeting was attended by about 180 people, 40 of whom were from government. Those present included representatives of political parties, trade unions and independent personalities, intellectuals, academics and human rights activists, including Tizin Tayeb, Mohammed Habash, Father Elias Zahlawi, Kadri Jamil, Omar Ausi, Abbas al Nouri, Imad al Shuaiba, and Rasha Serob. But many others decided not to take part while clashes are still ongoing in various cities across Syria.

Vice President Farouk al-Shara, inaugurating the session said that "dialogue never begins in a relaxed atmosphere, but it is the only way forward for the good of the country; is neither a favour or a concession by the government, rather it is a duty, when based on the principle that the people are the source of power", noting that "Syria is determined to implement reforms and overcome the conflicts that some wish to foment".

The writer and a strong opponent Tizin reiterated the need to "lay the foundations to build the rule of law and work for the creation of a new democratic and civilized country", pointing out that while the meeting was in progress, in Homs and Hama there was still shooting.

The writer and Catholic priest Zahlawi stressed that Syria is subjected to fierce external interference, and called for "an end to illegal arrests, to reform the Syrian Constitution, and allow the formation of new parties." The leader of the opposition and Muslim leader Muhammad Habash invited the Syrian President to "amend the Constitution with an amendment to Articles 8 and 84 to end the one-party system”. Councillor to the Syrian president Bouthaina Shaaban said that "dialogue is the only way out of the national crisis," ensuring that no arguments were "taboo ".

The Syrian human rights activist Najib Dadam said that there is an ongoing revolt against a reality that no longer meets the needs of the Syrian people. People no longer accept a state with a single party and no rights, and accused the Syrian regime of seeking a solution to hold on to power. "The opposition forces are on the people’s side, they reject any external interference and want a solution to the crisis." In recent days, popular demonstrations were held in support of the regime in Aleppo and Latakia, similar to those which have occurred in Damascus, with huge Syrian flags hung on he streets of, stretching for miles, as well as demonstrations against the government.

Meanwhile, in Jisr al-Shoughour the thousands of refugees who had fled to Turkey for fear of being involved in Syrian army’s intervention are trickling back across the border. Of the 15340 Syrian citizens in Turkey, 6624 have already returned, Turkish sources say. 8806 will remain in refugee camps. This week Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is expected in Damascus, announced during his tour in the Middle East.

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