Syrian National Council chief Burhan Ghaliun
Burhan Ghaliun, President of the Syrian National Council opposition group, gives a press conference in Tunis earlier this month. The SNC has signed a political agreement with another faction of dissidents laying the ground rules for a "transitional period" should the regime be toppled, a statement says. © Fethi Belaid - AFP
Syrian National Council chief Burhan Ghaliun
Last updated: December 31, 2011

Syrian opposition groups set rules for transition

Syria's opposition has charted a transitional period eyeing regime change, while Arab League monitors say they have seen government snipers and have demanded their withdrawal.

At the same time, the rebel Free Syrian Army said on Saturday it is suspending operations against regime forces during the one-month renewable mission of monitors deployed in Syria to implement an Arab League peace plan.

At least 32 civilians were killed on Friday, including 25 who were shot dead by Syrian forces as they opened fire on massive protests that rocked the country while the monitors toured flashpoints, a watchdog said.

In a video released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a man wearing an orange vest with the Arab League logo said in the flashpoint city of Daraa: "There are snipers; we have seen them with our own eyes."

"We ask the authorities to remove them immediately; if they don't remove them within 24 hours there will be other measures," the unnamed speaker in the video, which was dated Friday, told a crowd of people.

"Otherwise our coming here is for nothing," he added.

The observer mission was not immediately reachable to confirm his comments.

The the Britain-based watchdog also reported that Syrian forces used "nail bombs" to disperse anti-regime rallies, and fired live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades at tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters.

Funerals for several victims were held on Saturday across Syria, the Observatory said, including in the northern city of Idlib where mourners called for revenge, YouTube footage showed.

Security forces also fired warning shots into the air as thousands of people began pouring into a square in the restive Damascus suburb of Douma for a funeral ceremony, the rights group added.

In Cairo, headquarters of the Arab League, the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB) inked a deal late Friday as they eye a post-regime transition.

An English language statement from the NCB said the deal "sets out the political and democratic rules for the transitional period," should President Bashar al-Assad be ousted by the uprising that erupted in March.

The accord also "determines the important parameters for Syria's future which aspire to ensure that the homeland and every citizen's rights are treated with dignity, and for the foundation of a civil democratic state."

NCB chief Hassan Abdel Azim told AFP the accord is designed to fend off a Libya-style foreign military intervention in Syria and protect civilians suffering from the wrath of Assad's autocratic regime.

The UN estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed in the regime's crackdown on dissent since March. Assad's government insists the violence has been instigated by "terrorist armed gangs" with foreign help.

On Friday, responding to calls by Internet activists, tens of thousands of Syrians flooded the streets across the country to make their voices heard by the Arab observers.

"We urge you to make a clear distinction between the assassin and the victim," activists of the Syrian Revolution 2011 said on their Facebook page.

The United Nations said it expects Syria to grant unfettered access to the hard-won Arab observer mission which Damascus only agreed to after weeks of prevarication.

"It is critical that the observer mission be given unhindered access and full cooperation by the government of Syria, and that its independence and impartiality be fully preserved," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

According to the Observatory, monitors visited Idlib, Hama, Daraa and the Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amro on Friday. State media said they also went to Hama and spoke to wounded people in a government hospital.

Jordan said 12 judges, army officers and peacekeeping experts were ready to join the mission as soon as Amman gets the go-ahead from the Arab League, Ad-Dustour newspaper reported quoting Information Minister Rakan Majali.

The announcement came as the head of the rebel Free Syrian Army told AFP in Beirut he was freezing operations against regime forces throughout the duration of the observer mission.

"We have decided to stop all the operations, except those for self-defence," said dissident Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad, whose forces have claimed several deadly attacks on regime forces.

He warned however that his men were ready to pick up arms if authorities pursue their deadly crackdown and fail to implement all the terms of the Arab peace plan. "We can't just sit back and watch," he said.

A first team of 50 observers arrived on Monday as part of an Arab plan endorsed by Syria on November 2, which calls for the withdrawal of the military from towns and residential districts, a halt to violence against civilians and the release of detainees.

The mission, led by Sudanese veteran intelligence officer General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, is expected to grow to number 150-200 monitors.

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