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Syria: Opposition leaders convene for rare meeting in Damascus

Syria's opposition leaders met Sunday in the capital, calling for the ousting of Bashar Al-Assad.

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Russian Ambassador to Syria Azmat Allah Kolmahmedov (L) speaks as Raja al-Nasser, long-time opponent to the Syrian government regime and General Secretary of the Coordinating Committee for Democratic National Change, listens on as they attend a National Conference for Rescuing Syria, in Damascus on September 23, 2012. The conferees will discuss ways to get Syria out of the crisis it faces. (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria's opposition leaders gathered for a rare meeting in Damascus Sunday, where they called for the peaceful overthrow of Bashar al-Assad. 

The conference of 15 Syrian opposition parties and eight civil society movements was tolerated by Assad's regime, in an effort to show it is open to political reform despite its violent crackdown on dissidents, the Associated Press reported

The goal of the gathering, which was organized by the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Changes in Syria (NCC), was to find solutions to Syria's ongoing crisis, and also hosted delegates from Russia, China, Iran, and other Arab nations, according to UPI

"We are convinced that a dialogue without preconditions is the sole way out of the current crisis whose continuation bodes no good either for Syria or for the region as a whole," said  Russian Ambassador to Syria Azamat Kulmukhametov, UPI reported. 

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The NCC called for "overthrowing the regime with all its symbols" in a strongly-worded statement, while maintaining a "peaceful struggle to achieve the goals of the revolution," according to the International Business Times

The rebel forces fighting Assad's regime, however, believe the "internal opposition" is too lenient on Syria's dictator, and the meeting is seen by some as way for the opposition to gain credibility as well, BBC News reported

Assad’s military has increased its airstrikes and shelling of civilian areas in recent weeks, as it attempts to tamp down the rebellion, the AP reported. According to activists on the ground, around 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120923/syria-opposition-leaders-conference-damascus