Syrian opposition uniting to topple al-Assad

Several Syrian opposition groups announced a new joint action committee Tuesday to consolidate efforts to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In an effort to “expedite the toppling of the criminal Assad regime,” the groups agreed to form the committee to represent “the forces of the revolutionary movements.”

“While this joint committee is striving to overthrow the tyrannical regime in Syria, it calls upon all revolutionary forces to join them and work together to expedite the toppling of the regime, and to protect our people in Syria from its brutality,” said a statement from one of the groups, the Syrian Expatriates Organization.

The groups include the General Commission for the Syrian Revolution and the Supreme Council for the Syrian Revolution.

The statement said another group is the “Independent Revolution Movement in the Syrian National Council,” but it is not clear if it is linked in any way to the Syrian National Council, the most internationally recognized opposition group and regarded as the strongest and most viable such movement by many observers. The SNC could not immediately be reached for comment.

The development comes as world leaders remain deadlocked on what to do about Syria.

Maj. Gen. Robert Mood of Norway, head of the U.N. monitoring mission in Syria, is expected to brief the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, three days after the mission formed to observe a cease-fire and adherence to a U.N.- and Arab League-backed peace plan suspended its operations because of growing violence.

At least 18 people have been killed in regime onslaughts in Syria on Tuesday, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said. In the Idlib province town of Jabal Al-Zawieh, it said, the regime conducted house-to-house raids and set fire to homes.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said Tuesday that terrorists sabotaged oil pipelines.

One attack took place Tuesday in the Homs region, and another occurred Monday in Deir Ezzor. The Syrian government blamed the violence on “armed terrorist groups,” the vaguely defined entities it has consistently blamed over the past year.

Mood, the U.N. observer chief, said Homs residents were trapped by escalating violence, and “attempts to extract civilians from the line of fire over the past week have been unsuccessful.”

Syria said the regime “is ready to extract the citizens besieged by armed groups, without preconditions.”

Syrian opposition groups say more than 13,000 people have been killed since al-Assad’s government started cracking down on anti-government protesters last year. The United Nations’ latest estimate puts the death toll at more than 10,000.

The United States and its European and Arab allies have viewed Russia and China as obstacles to tough action against al-Assad.

Russia has refused to go along with the United States and other nations in calling for al-Assad to step aside. The nation, which has a lucrative arms trade with Syria, has blocked two Security Council resolutions that would have sanctioned the Syrian government.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Syria at the G-20 meeting in Mexico on Monday. But the two made little headway on the crisis.

The Standard Club, a U.K. marine insurer, said it had stopped coverage for Russian operator Femco’s cargo ship, MV Alaed, amid allegations that it is carrying weapons to Syria. U.S. officials have said the ship is carrying attack helicopters and munitions from the Russian port of Kaliningrad. Femco declined to comment to CNN on Tuesday.

CNN cannot independently verify government and opposition claims of casualties because the Syrian government has restricted access by international journalists.

Source: CNN

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