Opposition conference promises ‘peaceful uprising’

About 200 members of the opposition gathered in the Semiramis Hotel in central Damascus on Monday called for a “peaceful transition to democracy” and an end to one-party rule.

The meeting was the first public gathering of the opposition inside Syria for decades. Previous opposition conferences have been restricted to convening in Turkey and Europe.

Participants in the meeting, in their final communiqué, voiced support for the “popular peaceful Intifada” which aims to “move to a civil, democratic and plural state securing cultural, political and social rights, and freedom for all Syrian Citizens”.

According to the Associated Press the delegates also called for an immediate end to the military-security crackdown on protesters, an independent investigation into the killing of soldiers and civilians, the release of all political prisoners and the right to peaceful protest without prior government approval.

There are two ways forward, the first a clear and non-negotiable move to a peaceful transition to democracy which would rescue our country and our people,” opposition activist Munzer Khaddam told the meeting. “The alternative is a road that leads into the unknown and which will destroy everyone,” he said.

Opposition activist and attendee Anwar Mohamad tweeted that the media should offer opposition voices a platform as well as official ones. “Syrian opposition should be given space on Syrian state TV and media,” he said.

According to the Wall Street Journal, activists convened a conference in Istanbul to discuss support strategies for protesters, while others arrived in Moscow on Monday on a lobbying tour for international support. Anti-government activists also met in Doha, Qatar, on Monday and other delegations planned to head to South Africa and Brazil.

President Bashar al-Assad meanwhile set a date for a “national dialogue” to begin (July 10) after meeting two Western lawmakers – British Conservative MP Brooks Newmark and US congressman Dennis Kucinich – in the first of such meetings since the uprising began.

The British government said Newmark had travelled without government backing and Kucinich refused to comment on what was said at the meeting. But official news agency SANA reported that the pair “expressed keenness on Syria’s security and stability as an essential pillar in the region”.

There are no alternatives to political discussion and allowing all Syrians to participate in building a democratic, plural society that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people,” a government statement on SANA said.

Govt offers amnesty for ‘unlicensed’ weapons

The interior ministry has called on Syrians to who possess “unlicensed firearms to hand them over to the nearest police center within 15 days,” the state news agency reported.

The ministry said that those handing in weapons under the scheme would not be convicted of crimes, but added that “necessary legal procedures will be taken if anyone is arrested with unlicensed weapons in his possession after the deadline.”

The government blames gangs backed by foreign powers and armed with smuggled weapons for much of the violence which has claimed the lives of 1,500 civilians and 341 soldiers and police according to rights groups. Officials have said that as many as 500 government forces have been killed and more than 1,300 injured but keeps no tally of civilians killed in the uprising.

Document appears to show how government clamped down on technology
A document published by Middle East media analyst Michael Weiss seems to show how senior officials planned to shut down the internet in Dera’a, Homs and elsewhere on May 22.

The document, allegedly issued by the General Head of the National Security Office at the Ministry of Defence, also details how the government banned “unregistered” satellite phones, which it “considered means of dealing with foreign parties that intend to damage the national security”; the owner of any such phone was to be considered “an agent of a foreign enemy”.

Fighting the information war – in the form of “cultural and educational talk-shows” – is also decreed in the letter as a way to “contain the current crisis.”

There is no way for Syria Today to confirm or disprove the veracity of the document.

Syria Today (Syria)