CAIRO - As thousands of Syrians took to the streets dreaming of toppling Bashar Al-Assad regime, the country's main opposition group have signed a political agreement with anti-regime dissidents, laying the ground rules for a "transitional period" that will follow Assad rule.
"Opposition factions inside and outside Syria must unite their efforts," National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, NCB chief Hassan Abdel Azim told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Saturday, December 31.
"A common political vision is needed to ensure a total change in Syria and achieve the goals of the peaceful revolution to avoid the dangers of foreign military intervention," he added.
The deal was signed late Friday in Cairo by Syrian National Council (SNC) chief Burhan Ghalioun and the NCB's Haytham Manna.
The SNC is a coalition of 230 members, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood and liberal figures who are determined to end Assad's 11-year autocratic rule. Only 100 of its members live in Syria.
The NCB is an umbrella group of Arab nationalist figures, socialists, independents, Marxists and also comprises members of Syria's minority Kurdish community.
They approved the agreement "which sets out the political and democratic rules for the transitional period," should Assad be ousted by a pro-democracy uprising that erupted in March, a statement AFP received from Nicosia said.
The accord also "determines the important parameters for Syria's future which aspire to ensure that the homeland and every citizen's rights are treated with dignity, and for the foundation of a civil democratic state," according to an English-language text from the NCB.
It "will be deposited as an official document with the Arab League" on January 1.
The agreement also calls for the protection of civilians in Syria, where a government crackdown on dissent has left more than 5,000 people dead since March according to UN estimates.
The coalition confirmed it staunch opposition to any international military intervention.
The transition period starts with the fall of the regime and all its symbols, the agreement posted on the internet, said.
The pact voices support for the so-called dissident Free Syrian Army that has been battling regular army troops.
Though sticking to the peaceful nature of protests so far, the Syrian opposition warned that more Syrians might opt to use force if Arab League monitors fail to pinpoint mass killings of protesters.
"We fear they will not see the reality on the ground and might produce a weak report," Bassma Kodmani, a prominent member of the main opposition Syrian National Council, told Reuters on Friday, December 30.
As Arab monitors tried contact independent witnesses of the repression, 38 protesters were killed on Friday as major protests swept different Syrian cities.
Any possible failure of those monitors to report the facts on the ground, Kodmani said, was threatening loss of confidence between Syrians and the pan-Arab body.
"The loss of trust with the Arab countries and outside world will lead to deep frustration and strengthen the voice of those calling for militancy," Kodmani said.
"Some will say that the only way to face such force is to respond with force... This temptation is strong, because people are paying too high a price to continue resisting peacefully."
Kodmani said that while the Syrian opposition backed the mission as the first opportunity for outsiders to see the realities of the crisis, it also recognized that the Arab League had no deterrent force to protect civilians if need be.
"The history of the League is mediation. But it doesn't have an Arab force that is available to be deployed.
So even if there is political will, those coercive measures are not available at the regional level," she said.
Kodmani said the Syrian opposition may seek international intervention, unless the killing of civilians stopped.
"Somebody has to step in to take measures to protect civilians," Kodmani declared.
"Only the Security Council has the means to force a regime to implement something."