June 11, 2012 in Nation/World

Syrian exiles choose new leader

Kurdish academic says Assad regime on ‘last legs’
Patrick J. Mcdonnell Los Angeles Times
 
Officers defect

Also on Sunday, an opposition activist told Al-Jazeera that members of an entire Syrian air defense base, including 10 officers, had defected to the rebel Free Syrian Army in the embattled city of Rastan, bringing their weapons.

BEIRUT –The best-known Syrian exile opposition group, the Syrian National Council, named a Kurdish exile as its new chief Sunday in another attempt to unify the fractious opposition fighting to oust President Bashar Assad.

The new leader, Abdulbaset Sieda, a Sweden-based academic, said in an interview with Agence France-Presse that escalating government attacks and alleged atrocities demonstrated that Assad’s once-formidable control of Syria was teetering after almost 15 months of rebellion.

“The regime is on its last legs,” AFP quoted Sieda as saying. “The multiplying massacres and shelling show that it is struggling.”

On Sunday, opposition activists reported new government bombardment of the city of Homs and rebel strongholds in the provinces of Idlib, Dara and Latakia. The government has denied shelling civilians.

At least three major massacres have been reported in recent weeks, the most notorious being the killings last month of more than 100 civilians in the central town of Houla. Each side has blamed the other for the massacres, which have drawn international condemnation and underscored the failure of a United Nations-brokered peace plan.

Meanwhile, fierce weekend clashes were reported in Damascus, the capital. An opposition monitoring group, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least 83 people were killed Saturday across Syria, more than half of them in military bombardments. The group reported at least 17 more deaths on Sunday.

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