Syria's fragmented opposition took steps toward forming a national council Tuesday, but serious divisions and mistrust among the members prevented them from presenting a unified front against President Bashar Assad's regime more than five months into the country's uprising, participants said.
Syria's opposition, fragmented by years of sectarian and ideological tensions, has made unprecedented gains against the regime, but there is no clear leadership or platform beyond the demands for more freedom and for Assad to step down.
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With Assad's forces cracking down on the protests, the overall death toll has reached 2,200, the United Nations said this week.
A group of opposition members have been meeting in neighboring Turkey in recent days, but participants gave conflicting reports about exactly what emerged. Obeida al-Nahhas told The Associated Press that a council had been formed but the details were still being completed; others said there was no council to speak of yet.
"People are just beginning to form an opposition and so they are treading carefully. This is understandable," said Mahmud Osman, an opposition member at the meeting in Turkey. "We don't claim to represent the whole of Syria. But we are talking to everyone and we are trying to build a consensus."
The unrest in Syria shows no sign of abating, with both sides of the conflict energized. Protesters pour into the streets every Friday, defying the near-certain barrage of shelling and sniper fire. But the regime is strong as well and in no imminent danger of collapse, setting the stage for what could be a drawn-out and bloody stalemate.
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