Syrian council wants recognition as voice of opposition

STOCKHOLM Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:08am EDT

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A broad Syrian opposition group wants to be recognized internationally as representative of those ranged against President Bashar al-Assad, but has no plan to be an alternative government, one of its members said on Monday.

The National Council was formed in Istanbul on October2 and includes academics, grassroots activists, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Damascus Declaration, the main grouping of established opposition figures.

"We will seek recognition ... and we say all the time that there are important people, knowledgeable people who can do everything that is good for Syria and Syria's future," Abdulbaset Sieda, a Sweden-based member of the executive committee of the council, told a news conference.

He was speaking after opposition talks at the weekend in Sweden, including the council, representatives of coordination committees from within Syria and other activists.

Sieda told reporters that the council did not see itself as a government-in-waiting. "Our role ends with the fall of this regime," he added, saying that discussions would then be held about future elections and broadening democracy.

Syria warned on Sunday it would retaliate against any country that formally recognizes the National Council.

European Union foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, called the creation of the opposition council "a positive step forward" but stopped short of any move to recognize the body.

The formation of the umbrella group has been welcomed by Assad's Western critics, including the United States, however they have not embraced it diplomatically as they did the Libyan rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi.

Sieda said the council viewed itself as representing 60 percent of the opposition.

The talks in Sweden, arranged by the Palme Center, which promotes democracy, were aimed at unifying opposition efforts.

Participants broadly agreed that it was important to uphold human rights, further democracy and respect minority rights.

They called for international observers in Syria and backed sanctions targeted at individuals within the government, rather than against the country in general.

"There is almost a consensus to not like military intervention, but one would rather have political and diplomatic intervention," political scientist Ghied al-Hashmy told the news conference.

(Writing by Patrick Lannin; Editing by Paul Taylor)

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