NEWS

Syrian opposition meets near Damascus

09/17/2011 01:03 EDT | Updated 11/17/2011 05:12 EST

More than 200 opposition leaders met in Syria on Saturday in a bid to unify their factions after a six-month uprising that has left 2,600 people dead.

The meeting was held at a private farm outside of Damascus just two days after a similar meeting was held in Turkey. Both events come after months of unrest against the rule of President Bashar Assad, who continues to crack down violently on any opposition.

Samir Aita, an opposition figure living outside of Syria, told BBC News it was significant that a major anti-government meeting was held inside the country.

“The importance of this meeting lies in the fact that it is happening [on Syrian soil] despite all the security difficulties.”

Most of the people who attended the opposition meeting were drawn from Syria's established opposition. Representatives of the protesters did not attend but their demands were read out, according to BBC News.

At the meeting, the opposition asked for no international intervention and no violence.

Meanwhile, the meeting in Turkey helped create a 140-person national council, which would also co-ordinate opposition efforts and represent the public face of the anti-regime movement.

The Red Cross says the situation is deteriorating to the point that its workers are coming under attack. A Syrian volunteer died this week from his injuries and two others were hurt after their ambulance was caught in heavy fire while transporting an injured person.

"It is completely unacceptable that volunteers who are helping to save other people's lives end up losing their own," Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, the International Committee of the Red Cross' operations head in the region, told Al Jazeera.

There were new demonstrations from the capital on Friday and in the southern province of Daraa, where the protest movement was born in mid-March.

Demonstrators were also in the streets in eastern province of Deir el-Zour as well as the province of Latakia on the Mediterranean coast and central regions.

Activists, who use a network of sources on the ground, said the death toll was at least 17. One major activist group, called the Local Coordinating Committees, put the figure at 32.

Clashes between security forces and protesters erupted mainly in the the outskirts of the central city of Homs and in the Damascus suburb of Doumma, activists said.

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