Syrian wants to form 'government' in exile

By JAMEY KEATEN,Associated Press Updated at 2012-04-26 18:34:18 +0000

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PARIS (AP) — Syria's fractured opposition is showing further signs of cracking, even as international powers build the pressure on President Bashar Assad to end his regime's bloody repression of dissent.

The son of a former Syrian prime minister announced Thursday plans to create a shadow "government" in exile, exposing the lack of unity around the Syrian National Council that many countries call the main opposition group.

Nofal al-Dawalibi, who divides his time between Paris and Saudi Arabia, announced plans for the "government" and says he wants to help Syrian rebels and encourage international military intervention against Assad's forces.

The latest public split in the opposition comes after the U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved a resolution allowing up to 300 observers to be sent to Syria to monitor a cease-fire plan put forth by special envoy Kofi Annan.

The international community has been generally divided over how to pressure Assad to stop a crackdown that has killed thousands over the past 13 months. With violence continuing, some doubt whether the Annan plan will hold.

At a news conference, Al-Dawalibi said his "government" would work to meet the immediate needs of the Syrian people: "military intervention, to be protected; air strikes; humanitarian (aid) corridors; air exclusion zones, and of course, humanitarian aid."

French diplomats say it's unclear what weight that such opposition groups based abroad — including Paris — have inside Syria, where anti-Assad activists often operate alone. The SNC is still the opposition's main face, they say.

Al-Dawalibi said his father, Maarouf, was the "last freely elected prime minister" in Syria, in 1961, but was later jailed and fled to Saudi Arabia two years later, where he became an adviser to the royal family.

Asked by a reporter about whether his movement was playing into Assad's hands by exposing rifts within the opposition, al-Dawalibi replied: "What's the alternative? The Syrian National Council, or the Annan plan that is going nowhere?"

He says the SNC has been insular and ineffective, with a "legislative" structure and too many links to the Muslim Brotherhood. His government would be the executive, he says, with 35 "governors" inside Syria and seven advisers abroad for issues such as defense, financial and legal affairs.

"Unfortunately it is impossible to unify the opposition in Syria," he said.

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Angela Charlton contributed from Paris.

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