Opposition activists gather in Damascus
Some 200 Syrian opposition activists on Monday gathered in Damascus to discuss strategies for a peaceful transition to democracy. The unprecedented meeting was held at a hotel in central Damascus.
"We will talk so that we can formulate a national strategy on how to end Syria's current crisis," Abdel Karim Rihawi, president of the Syrian League for Human Rights, told AFP.
Among the participants was Michel Kilo, one of Syria's most leading writers and pro-democracy activists, who spent years as a political prisoner.
Another participant, writer and activist Loay Hussein, said Syrian authorities were informed of the meeting and had not blocked it. There would be no government representation, he said.
The event was praised by the government as an example of the reforms promised by President Bashar al-Assad. Some critics said the meeting was giving legitimacy to the regime.
"This meeting will be exploited as a cover-up for the arrests, brutal killings and torture that is taking place on a daily basis,'' opposition figure Walid al-Bunni, who was not participating in the conference, said. He told The Associated Press that he was not invited to the meeting because authorities had "vetoed" some names.