Syrian opposition may allow peacekeepers if Assad goes

CAIRO Sat Dec 1, 2012 11:44am EST

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Syria's newly-formed opposition coalition said on Saturday it might allow an international peacekeeping force into Syria if President Bashar al-Assad and his allies leave power.

Coalition spokesman Walid al-Bunni, asked about statements by U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi that a ceasefire would only hold if overseen by a peacekeeping mission, said the opposition could accept such a deployment if Assad stepped down first.

The issue of peacekeepers is highly sensitive. Many in the opposition fear it could lead to a division of the country along ethnic and religious lines, creating a sanctuary for Assad's loyalists in an area near the Mediterranean where many of his minority Alawite sect live.

Bunni said the coalition was open to any proposal if Assad and his allies, including top officers in the military and security apparatus, were removed.

"If this is the first condition then we can start discussing everything. There will be no political process until the ruling family and all those who underpin the regime leave," he added.

"Whoever is putting forward a political plan has to know that after 50,000 dead and 200,000 wounded and 5 million displaced, the Syrians will not accept those who repressed them and killed them for the last 50 years staying on."

Bunni, a physician who spent most of the period after Assad inherited power from his father in 2000 in jail as a political prisoner, was speaking at a news conference marking the conclusion of the first full meeting of the 60-member coalition in Cairo.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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