Syrian opposition 'more cohesive,' US says

WASHINGTON - The Syrian opposition is becoming "more cohesive" and "more broadly representative" of the country as a whole, a US official said Friday.

Syrian opposition 'more cohesive,' US says
Mark Toner, the State Department's deputy spokesman, told CNN that a real opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was beginning to form after five months of pro-democracy protests.

"It's a very fluid situation in Syria," Toner said when asked if an anti-Iran opposition was ready to replace Assad, a member of the minority Alawite sect who has forged a close alliance with Shiite and non-Arab Iran.

"We have seen the Syrian opposition begin to take shape, begin to stand up and become more cohesive and become more broadly representative... of Syrian society."

Toner said President Barack Obama's administration would like to remain in touch with the Syrian opposition as it grows.

Dismissing lawmakers' calls to remove US Ambassador Robert Ford from Damascus, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday that his presence helps Washington stay in touch with the opposition.

"We see this opposition taking root not only in cities and towns across Syria, but it's also growing in terms of its complexion," Nuland told reporters.

"So what we're seeing now is that even in just the last few months and weeks, Syria's traditional political opposition has been joined by new figures, has been enriched with new local leaders, younger people, and has a new sense of energy."

She noted that the opposition now included Alawites, Druze, Christians, businessmen, merchants and even military officers who have switched their allegiance away from Assad.

"And they're also beginning to do better in working together," Nuland added.

"They are beginning to talk about the need to put together a unified road map, and we have been supportive of that aspiration, for them to put together a road map for their own transition to a democratic future."

Ford, who was back in Washington more than two weeks ago for his Senate confirmation hearing, told senators early this month that the opposition was a diverse group that was "not very well organized."

He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the opposition should develop Syrian rather than American ideas about how the democratic transition should proceed.

Friday, August 19th 2011

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