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Syrian opposition finds new leader in Sweden

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Syrian opposition finds new leader in Sweden
08:51 CEST+02:00
A Kurdish-Syrian academic who has lived in exile in Sweden since the 1990s was elected president of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) at the weekend, and promptly hinted that the group may formally request military assistance.

"That the SNC may ask for military intervention hasn't been ruled out," Abdulbaset Sieda told the TT news agency from Istanbul, Turkey, where the SNC is based.

Sieda, who lives in Uppsala in eastern Sweden, was elected to lead the SNC, succeeding Burhan Ghalioun, who led the opposition coalition since its formation in August 2011.

Born in a most Kurdish region of northern Syria in 1956, Sieda holds a PhD from the University of Damascus and taught for three years in Libya before going into exile in Sweden.

Sieda hopes to unite the fractious coalition in order to "utilize its full capacity" he told TT.

"Today everything is in a centralized executive committee which I think is wrong," he said.

He also urged the Syrian diaspora to participate in putting pressure on the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

"I'm calling upon all the Syrian expatriate community to organize sit-ins before their Syrian embassies," he said on Sunday, according to Voice of American news.

According to Sieda, the SNC has little choice but to support the peace plan put forward by former UN head Kofi Annan, despite criticism of the plan.

"The problem is that there isn't any alternative. So we must support this plan, but we must also be aware that it isn't enough," he told TT.

Asking the international community to use force under Chapter Seven of the UN charter is also under consideration, however.

"That's also one of the options; I think we need to show the regime in Syria that all options are on the table. We haven't yet requested military action, but the regime must understand that we can use it if we think they are going to continue with the massacres."

Despite continued violence from the al-Assad, Sieda nevertheless believes the regime is losing its grip, which in part explains the killings.

"The regime is carrying out these massacres to frighten the people in Syria," he said.

Prior to his election as SNC leader, Sieda served as a member of the group's steering committee, a capacity in which he attended a Syrian opposition conference held in Stockholm in October 2011.

The Local/TT/dl

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