Syrian opposition members claimed Friday that Washington is planning to carry out a plan to end the violent riots in the country, while keeping Syrian President Bashar Assad in power.
In a new "road map" presented to the opposition during an conference in Damascus on Monday, and later published by British newspaper The Guardian, Assad is expected to lead his country into democracy, despite calls to remove him from office.
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The draft, signed by senior opposition members, has quickly stirred up controversy amongst the opposition. The plan calls to establish a National Legislative Assembly which will act as an interim Syrian government.
According to the plan, the Assembly will be composed of 100 members, with the Baath Party having 30 members, and 70 independent members, which will be appointed by the president following consultations with the opposition.
It also calls for better supervision over Syrian security forces and political parties, including the dismantling of gangs working directly for the regime.
The reform promises the rights of civilians and media in the country to create a favorable media climate and promote liberalism.
"Stop the media war waged by the state institutions against protesters… and opponents of the authority... This entails that the media report news accurately and without bias, and not ignore critical news such as the exodus of Syrians… as well as the killings and disappearances of citizens," the draft stated.
'Clear, frank apology'
In addition, these institutes would be required to issue a "clear and frank apology for what happened in the country, and the accountability of the executive bodies and personalities who failed to accommodate the movement of legitimate protest… providing material and moral compensation."
According to the opposition, some 1,500 people have been killed since the rioting first began in March. The government says 500 members of the security forces have died.
The opposition further claimed that the United States has called to carry out this new "road map" and denied reports of pressuring the Syrians.
"We are encouraging genuine dialogue between the opposition and the regime but we are not promoting anything. We want to see a democratic Syria but this is in the hands of the Syrian people," a State Department spokesman said.
The roadmap is signed by Louay Hussein and Maan Abdelsalam, leading secular intellectuals in a group called the National Action Committee. Both men are political activists and members of the opposition.
According to diplomatic sources, the two men met with Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa on Monday ahead of Assad's speech.
Despite this many other opposition members still expressed their objection to the new initiative, particularly to the fact that Assad will be able to remain in power.
"They are asking Bashar to lead the transition and this is not acceptable to the protesters," insisted Radwan Ziadeh, a leading exile. "It is too late."
Assad trying to buy time?
However, unlike the US's public call to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, in the case of Syria no such declarations have been made.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Assad is losing legitimacy and is not indispensable, but did not openly call for any action to remove him from office.
"It would be a big mistake if the Americans tried to influence this initiative and for the opposition to let them," warned a Syrian official. "I would advise them to distance themselves from the US."
There are also those who fear this is another way for Assad to buy more time. "This is a blueprint for reform in Syria that would leave the regime in place," warned one opposition figure.
"It's the minimum to keep the west happy. The regime wants to create an official opposition and sideline others. How can I give legitimacy to Bashar al-Assad when there are a million people on the streets demanding he be removed?"
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