Main Syrian Opposition Groups Unite Against Assad

Despite presence of Arab League observers, government forces continue to kill anti-regime protesters.

BEIRUT - Syria's two largest opposition groups signed an agreement to set up a democracy after President Bashar Assad's regime falls, opposition figures said yesterday.

The move is so far the most serious by the fractured opposition to unite against the regime. It shows Assad's opponents will accept nothing less than his departure from power.

Syria opposition supporters - AP - April 29, 2011

Burhan Ghalioun, leader of the Syrian National Council, and Haytham Manna of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, or NCB, signed the draft in Cairo on Friday night, according to an NCB statement and Omar Idilbi of the SNC.

The agreement between the opposition coalitions, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, says both groups reject any foreign military intervention in Syria and call for the protection of civilians by all legitimate means in the framework of international laws.

It also said that as soon as Assad's regime falls a "transitional period" will begin by preserving all state institutions and drafting a new constitution that guarantees a "civilian pluralist parliamentary democratic system." Then elections for a new parliament and president would be held.

The draft says all Syrian citizens are equal and the country's Kurdish minority is a "fundamental and historic" part of Syria's national structure. It also calls for "liberating Syrian territory," an apparent reference to the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.

The SNC's Ghalioun signed the agreement but the membership of the group must still formally adopt it, though that is expected without any changes. The groups said they will hand an official copy to Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby in Cairo today.

Syria's uprising began in March, and the United Nations says more than 5,000 people have died as the government has sought to crush the revolt.

On Tuesday, scores of Arab monitors, who are the first that Syria has allowed into the country during the uprising, began their work on the ground visiting hot spots around the country. They are supposed to ensure the regime complies with terms of the Cairo-based 22-member Arab League's plan to end Assad's crackdown on dissent.

Despite the observers' presence, regime force have continued the crackdown. At least six people were killed in attacks on protests yesterday, including one in Damascus, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group. A day earlier, at least 27 were reportedly killed.

The reports of death tolls could not be verified since journalists' activities are restricted by authorities.