03/20/2006, 00.00
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For 17 opposition movements Assad's fall is near

by Jihad Issa
National salvation Front is in favour of a democratic state based on the rule of law and pluralism. Muslim Brotherhood chief says Sharia won't be applied.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – People in Damascus are under the impression that a period of transition has started. Although the local press, which is government-controlled, insists that the UN inquiry in the Hariri assassination will remove any suspicions about Syria's role as the murder instigator and thus reduce international pressures and save the regime, opposition movements sense after long years of silence that perhaps the regime's time has come and are setting up a "Front" to help the regime fall.

Ali Saad-al-din Bayanouni, Syrian leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, is certain that following the Egyptian and Palestinian votes an "Islamic tide" will also sweep Syria in case of free elections.  

For this reason, the Muslim Brotherhood leader, former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam and others have set up a "National Salvation Front" in Belgium. For him, the goal is to peacefully overthrow the Assad regime.

"What we want to see from the United States and European countries is to lift this umbrella of international protection of this regime," Bayanouni said in an interview.

He insisted his movement is moderate and did not plan to turn Syria into a state governed by Sharia law, convinced though that it would be successful in case of elections.

"We believe that in the current situation in the Arab world, the Islamic tide is a widespread phenomenon, and if there are free elections, then this current will take its proper place [. . .] in the [current] political atmosphere," he said.

"With the failure of the experiences of other movements, secularists and nationalists, people are looking for other solutions, and that is why they are coming to the Islamists," he added.

The representatives of the 17 Islamist, secular, Liberal, Communist and Kurdish movements, in exile for many years, have issued a "National Programme for Change" that includes a soon-to-be created transitional government.

They also announced that a protest movement is emerging inside Syria whose task is to force President Assad to resign or follow the path of Romanian protesters who provoked the collapse of the Ceausescu regime in 1989.

The Front oppose foreign help, pledges a civilian constitution inspired by Turkey's Justice and Development Party, and denies any possibility that the Sharia would be applied to a secular country like Syria.

The Front intends to rebuild a country worthy of its history; founded on the rule of law and democratic principles; and respectful of pluralism in all its aspects, be they cultural, religious, ethnic, and political.

One of the participants to the Brussels meeting, Najib el-Ghadban, from the Syrian National Council, spoke to AsiaNews by phone, reiterating the Front's intention to apply the "Charter of Brussels", which was adopted before this meeting, which, he said, would continue. He also did not exclude a national "sit-in" in Syria.

Syria's press responded to the statements by the regime's adversaries by saying that they are like attempts to "empty the sea with a small glass". It has instead sought to reassure Syrians that the report by Belgian magistrate Serge Brammertz will be "very objective" and reveal the whole truth about the Hariri assassination "shutting the mouths of those who throw empty stones at Syria."

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