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Divisions among Syrian opposition evident in Cairo scuffle

November 9, 2011 | 11:37 am

Syrian protesters scuffle with opposition leaders in Cairo
REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- Deep fissures between various Syrian opposition factions were evident Wednesday when egg-throwing dissidents attempted to prevent other opposition figures from meeting with Arab League officials in the Egyptian capital.

Some activists reportedly chanted “traitors” as a delegation of Syrians attempted to enter the league headquarters.

The head of the visiting delegation, Hassan Abdel Azim, was eventually able to go inside and meet with the Arab League’s secretary-general, Nabil el-Araby, reported the pan-Arab satellite network Al Jazeera.

The Cairo delegation represented an opposition coalition known as the Syrian National Coordination Committee. A rival group, the Syrian National Council, formed last month in Istanbul, Turkey, views the committee as a tool of President Bashar Assad. The committee denies being manipulated by Assad and says it is independent.

Both groups say they seek a democratic government in Syria, where the Assad family has ruled in autocratic fashion for more than 40 years. But they are divided on a key question: Is there still space for dialogue with Assad’s government?

The Syrian National Council says it is too late for dialogue and Assad must go. The rival committee has been more open to dialogue — but only once the government ends its crackdown against protesters.

An Arab League peace plan, hammered out in Cairo last week, calls for Assad to withdraw security forces from populated areas and begin dialogue with dissenters. The opposition says more than 100 people have been killed since the pact was announced.

Meanwhile, opposition activists reported that security forces Wednesday killed at least 26 more people, including seven in the flashpoint city of Homs and eight in the Damascus neighborhood of Barzeh. The death tolls could not be independently verified.

The United Nations this week blamed Assad’s “brutal government crackdown” on dissenters for at least 3,500 deaths since protests began in March. Damascus blames armed “terrorists” for the unrest and says more than 1,000 security personnel have been murdered.

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-- Patrick J. McDonnell

Photo: Syrian protesters prevent Abdul-Aziz Khair, a member of the Syrian National Coordination Committee, second from left, and other opposition leaders from entering the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Wednesday. Credit: Amr Nabil / Associated Press

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