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Fearing stark future, Syrian Alawites meet in Cairo

Last modified: 23 Mar 2013 08:37

Opposition campaigners from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect will meet this weekend to support a democratic alternative to his rule and try to distance the community from wholesale association with the government's attempts to crush a two-year uprising.

The two-day meeting in Cairo, the first by Alawites supportive of the revolt, will draft a declaration committing to a united Syria and inviting the mainstream opposition to cooperate on preventing sectarian bloodletting if Assad falls and agree on a transitional justice framework, organisers said.

As the war takes on an increasingly sectarian bent, severing the Alawite fate from that of Assad could be crucial for the survival of the community, an offshoot of Shia Islam that comprises about 10 percent of Syria's population.

A statement by the organising committee of the Alawite conference said: "The regime, which is becoming more isolated and weak, is working on turning sectarian zealotry into bloodshed. There are anti-regime forces also pushing toward sectarian warfare."

"Depriving the regime of the sectarian card is crucial for its ouster and for negotiating a Syrian national covenant on the basis of a modern statehood and equal citizenship and justice," the statement said.

About 150 Alawite figures, including activists and religious leaders, who were mostly forced to flee Syria for supporting the revolt, will attend the conference in Cairo, which will start on Saturday.

[Reuters]