Syrian opposition-in-exile says regime must fall

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Syrian opposition leaders-in-exile called in Paris for the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad, asking France to maintain pressure on the Syrian leader to "halt the killing of innocents."

"The state of Syria must stand, but the regime must fall," Anas Al Abdeh, president of the London-based Movement for Justice and Development, told journalists Thursday.

At his side were two other opposition leaders, Sarkis Sarkis of the Arab Socialist Movement, and Abdulhamid Alatassi of the Syrian Democratic People's Party.

"Europe, and France in particular, has a responsibility to apply a direct and strong pressure on the Syrian regime so that it will halt the killing of innocents," Al Abdeh said, speaking in Arabic.

The European Union and France should quickly convoke Syria's ambassadors to send this message to al-Assad, he added.

Days earlier an estimated 100 people died during protests in the city of Daraa.

Later on Thursday the Syrian government announced the release of all activists detained since street protests began a month ago, and said it might scrap an emergency law in place since 1963.

"The tyranny exercised by the Syrian regime over the last decades is exceptional," said Alatassi, speaking in French.

"Through its security system and policy of discrimination, it has shredded the fabric of the Syrian nation."

Alatassi, who left Syria in 1976, and Al Abdeh are both signatories of the 2005 "Damascus Declaration," which call for a multiparty system, freedom of expression and an end to the state of emergency.

Activists in Syria vowed on Friday to push on with rallies against "injustice and repression" after weekly Muslim prayers, dismissing the reform pledges announced by authorities the day before.

© 2011 AFP

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