Skip to main content

Syrian opposition group's new leader calls out Russia, China, Iran

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 11, 2012 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: An opposition group reports 53 killed Sunday; Syria reports 22 "martyrs"
  • An El Mundo correspondent tells CNN he saw bodies "destroyed beyond recognition"
  • By picking a minority Kurd, the Syrian National Council indicates efforts to unite ethic factions

(CNN) -- A central Syrian opposition group named a new leader Sunday and vowed new efforts to end the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Abdul Basit Sieda, a Syrian native now living in Sweden, is a minority Kurdish activist. His election to the helm of the Syrian National Council is widely viewed as an attempt to unite various ethnic factions.

At a news conference, he called on officials in Syria, Russia, and China "to think carefully about the situation now because the whole stability of region, if not the whole stability of the world, is at stake here. We would like to call upon them to support the Syrian people."

Russia and China have blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions that many other nations said could have pushed al-Assad to halt the killing. The two countries, which have major trade ties with Syria, said they want more balanced resolutions that call for a cessation of violence on all sides.

Sieda also called on Iran "to admit the situation on the ground and respect the will of Syrians" and to prepare "for new relations with the Syrian people based on the full interest of the Syrian and Iranian people."

96 dead as Syria opposition picks leader
Is Syria's regime losing Damascus?
Struggle to save wounded kids in Syria
Syria: Torture, threshold for war crimes
Syria on the brink

A recent draft U.N. report accused Iran of exporting arms to Syria in violation of a ban on weapons sales, a Western diplomat told CNN last month. Some analysts say Iran has continued to arm Syria in its brutal crackdown on the opposition.

Sieda vowed his country will be "a free democratic state."

When asked how he planned to bridge a gap between the Syrian opposition in exile and the opposition inside the country, Sieda said, "We are in direct communication and contact with revolutionary forces inside. We are always communicating with them." He vowed to "do everything necessary to bridge that gap," but also insisted the gap was just a rumor.

"The relationship between us and the forces inside has never been stronger," he insisted.

While he railed against the violence committed by al-Assad's regime, the regime itself announced a new stage in its argument that "armed terrorist groups" are actually responsible for the violence in the country.

A "documentary" shown on Syrian state-run TV revealed "that terrorists of various nationalities from the terrorist organization Jabhet al-Nasra, which is affiliated with al Qaeda, planned and carried out" bombings in Damascus on March 8. The cars used in the attack were driven by a Jordanian terrorist and a Syrian Palestinian, "and were trailed by an Iraqi," state-run news agency SANA reported.

Jabhet al-Nasr is also known as the al Nusra Front.

SANA also said 22 "army, law enforcement and civilian martyrs" were buried Sunday.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC) said 53 people were killed Sunday, including 26 in Homs.

Among the dead was citizen journalist Khaled Bakr, founder of the Baba Amr media center, the LCC said. Baba Amr, a besieged neighborhood of Homs, came under weeks of incessant shelling by the Syrian regime earlier this year, opposition activists have said.

Also in Homs, an entire battalion, part of Syria's air defense, defected and joined the opposition Free Syrian Army, the LCC said.

At a mosque in Maarat al-Numan, part of Idlib province, El Mundo correspondent Javier Espinosa said he saw six bodies destroyed beyond recognition. "They were in pieces," he told CNN.

Separately, there were three people dead inside homes being mourned.

Residents said people were leaving a mosque when a rocket hit in the middle of the street, hitting no one. As residents gathered after to assess the impact, a second rocket hit.

The rocket had Russian markings on the shell, Espinosa said.

He described a siege in Maarat al-Numan similar to one he had previously witnessed in Homs.

It was not immediately clear what effect the SNC's new leadership will have on Syrian opposition efforts.

"The SNC is still an incomplete opposition bloc. It does represent various factions, but not everyone on the ground," said analyst Taufiq Rahim, a Dubai-based political analyst.

"The election of a Kurdish activist like Sieda may send a signal to the other factions that the SNC is trying to consolidate the Kurdish support for the council, but I don't believe that either the ethnicity or the minority factor really matters at this point. What matters is taking real action on the ground and moving forward."

Dozens of countries have recognized the SNC as a legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition, though many members of the group's leadership are expatriates.

Al-Assad has said he will not deal with opposition members influenced from the outside.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday there was no alternative to U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan, despite mounting evidence that it's being violated daily.

"The situation looks more and more grim," Lavrov said. "For the first time since the beginning of this crisis, we see the question of foreign intervention. And our position remains unchanged. We will never agree to sanction the use of force in the U.N. Security Council."

He called foreign intervention a "dangerous game" and said it would have serious consequences in the entire region. He also blamed recent violence -- including reports of horrific massacres in Houla and Qubeir -- in part to opposition groups being supported by other nations.

Russia, along with China and four central Asian nations, has signed a joint declaration rejecting armed intervention in Syria and reiterating support for Annan's peace plan.

Amid the international talks, a humanitarian crisis looms within Syria, opposition groups say.

"Several doctors have been detained to prevent them from aiding the wounded amid a state of panic among residents due to the abuses regime forces are committing against the people there," the LCC said.

A doctor in the besieged city of Al Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, said he has to keep moving his makeshift hospital to prevent attack. Journalist Robert King documented the chaos in the hospital on video as medical staff rushed to save lives.

King said he has seen snipers targeting children.

CNN cannot independently confirm reports of casualties or violence in Syria, as the government has restricted access by international journalists.

CNN's Josh Levs, Saad Abedine, Holly Yan, and Ivan Watson contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1019 GMT (1819 HKT)
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
May 31, 2014 -- Updated 0141 GMT (0941 HKT)
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT