Syrian opposition rejects dialogue, crackdown continues
Syrian opposition members on Saturday renewed their rejection to a national dialogue put forward by President Bashar al-Assad in a bid to end the country's unrest, while Syrian forces stormed two towns in Idlib district, dpa reported.
Syrian Forces backed by tanks had stormed the villages of Kfar Haya and Bzabour in the north-western district of Idlib, Omar Idlibi, a Syrian activist based in northern Lebanon, told the German Press Agency dpa.
"The soldiers are carrying out house-to-house searches looking for wanted activists," he said.
"They have arrested as many as 10 people and confiscated computers and cell phones," he added.
More than 1,400 civilians and 348 security personnel have been killed, while at least 12,000 have been arrested since anti-government protests erupted in March, according to human rights groups.
The death toll cannot be independently confirmed as the Syrian government has prevented foreign media workers and international rights group from entering the country.
Meanwhile, Luai Hussein, a member of the opposition Follow-Up Group, said they would not take part in Sunday's meeting because "authorities do not appear to be serious in this dialogue."
"The government wants to hold a dialogue in order to send a message abroad, but not to solve the four-month problem in the country," Hussein told dpa.
Hussein said opposition groups believe in dialogue as "the way out of this crisis, but we will not talk under the circumstances imposed by the authority on us."
Al-Assad said last month that a national dialogue would start soon to review the laws on elections, the creation of new political parties other than the ruling Baath party, and consider changes to the constitution.
A meeting scheduled on Sunday seeks "to lay down the dialogue mechanisms and bases ahead of the national dialogue conference," official media said.
Opposition groups said that dialogue could not begin before the security crackdown had been ended, peaceful protests allowed, all political prisoners released, official propaganda against the demonstrators stopped and foreign media allowed to cover the protests freely.
The government invited over 150 prominent figures to attend Sunday's session, however most anti-government activists rejected the invitation.
"The government should come to our table for dialogue, which would be through creating a suitable atmosphere," Hussein added.
Tens of thousands of Syrians on Friday took to the streets across the country, defying a security crackdown, to reject the proposed dialogue. Around 15 in total were killed in different parts of the country after security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators.