Last updated: 12 October, 2011

Qatari emir hails Syrian opposition council

Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani has hailed as an “important step” the creation of a Syrian opposition front, urging President Bashar al-Assad to talk to them after months of deadly protests.

“The (formation of the) Syrian National Council marks an important step” said the ruler of the energy-rich Gulf state in remarks aired on Wednesday by the Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channel.

“It is in the interest of Syria that the government sits with and reaches an agreement with this council over the nature of a new constitution that would preserve the balance of the Syrian nation,” he said.

The United Nations says a relentless campaign to clamp down on anti-regime protests has resulted in more than 2,900 death since March.

“I think that the council enjoys legitimacy among the protesters in Syria,” added the emir, who had said in September that the months-long protests would not weaken despite the crackdown.

Syrian dissidents established the “national council” in Turkey on August 23 to coordinate their campaign to topple Assad and last week formally formed a common front uniting all groups that oppose his regime.

On Monday, the European Union welcomed its formation and urged the world to do the same, as it readied new sanctions against Assad’s regime.