The Guardian reports:
The US is pushing the Syrian opposition to maintain dialogue with Bashar al-Assad’s regime as details emerge of a controversial “roadmap” for reforms that would leave him in power for now despite demands for his overthrow during the country’s bloody three-month uprising.
Syrian opposition sources say US state department officials have been discreetly encouraging discussion of the unpublished draft document, which circulated at an unprecedented opposition conference held on Monday in Damascus. But Washington denies backing it.
Assad would oversee what the roadmap calls “a secure and peaceful transition to civil democracy”. It calls for tighter control over the security forces, the disbanding of “shabiha” gangs accused of atrocities, the legal right to peaceful demonstrations, extensive media freedoms, and the appointment of a transitional assembly.
The carefully phrased 3,000-word document demands a “clear and frank apology” and accountability for organisations and individuals who “failed to accommodate legitimate protests”, and compensation for the families of victims. The opposition says 1,400 people have been killed since mid-March. The government says 500 members of the security forces have died.
It calls for the ruling Ba’ath party to be subject to a new law on political parties – though the party would still provide 30 of 100 members for a proposed transitional national assembly. Seventy others would be appointed by the president in consultation with opposition nominees.
Several of the proposed measures have already been mentioned in public by Assad, fuelling speculation that he is at least partially following through on some of the document’s recommendations.
The roadmap is signed by Louay Hussein and Maan Abdelsalam, leading secular intellectuals in a group called the National Action Committee. Both men met the vice-president, Farouk al-Sharaa, before Assad’s most recent speech, diplomats said. On Monday they chaired the Damascus conference, which had official permission, was attended by 150 people – and was publicly welcomed by the US.