Syrian rebels call Cairo summit a conspiracy

Beirut

Fractures within the Syrian opposition were laid bare again yesterday as elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) slammed a summit in Cairo as being part of a "conspiracy" that will allow the regime more time to kill.

A statement from the Joint Command of the FSA came even as Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby urged the 250 delegates at the two-day conference to put aside their differences, saying "the sacrifices of the Syrian people are bigger than us".

Colonel Qassim Saadeddine, the FSA group's figurehead, who has denounced the senior rebel commander in Turkey, Riad al-Asaad, claimed the conference played into the hands of regime allies Russia and Iran. "We reject any meetings or conferences that do not embrace the demands of the Syrian people and their revolution without any equivocation or ambiguity," he said.

In a further signal of the challenge ahead, delegates at the conference dismissed a new peace plan put forward by the UN special envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, and accepted by an international conference in Geneva on Saturday.

Under pressure from Russia and China, that proposal did not specify that President Bashar al-Assad should be excluded from a transitional unity government, a key demand of most opposition groups.

"We will absolutely not accept any solution that does not say that Assad and all those with blood on their hands leave power," said Rima Flihan, co-ordinator of the summit's preparatory meetings, adding that proposals for a transition plan which would call for Mr Assad to leave are under discussion. The international community is increasingly desperate to find a way to bring an end to the conflict, as fears heighten that it will spread to neighbouring nations.

Saudi Arabia yesterday joined other Gulf states to warn its citizens not to travel to Lebanon, where border violence flared up again in the early hours of the morning.

Local media reported that a rocket had been fired across the border into Syria, after Syrian forces infiltrated Lebanese territory and temporarily detained two security officials.

Within Syria's borders violence continued unabated yesterday with at least 73 killed across the country, according to the Local Co-ordination Committees, with most victims in Homs province where it said assaults on rebel-held towns of Rastan and Al-Qusayr had intensified.

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