The newly-formed "National Salvation Front," the result of the meeting in Brussels of former VP Abdel Halim Khaddam and the MB's Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni, and other opposition groups (Kurdish, Liberal, Leftist, and Nationalist), continued to draw reactions from various Syrian groups and individuals both inside and outside Syria.
The initial set of reactions from the opposition inside Syria cautiously distanced itself from the Front, but did not attack it and its founders. Since then a number of activists inside Syria have become more specific in their reactions.
Samir Nashar, spokesman of the Syrian Free National Party (who was arrested two days ago) was recently asked (3/17/06) by "The Syria Report" why the Damascus Declaration had not openly denounced the meeting between Khaddam and Bayanouni. Nashar replied that the DD had wanted to denounce the initial February alliance between Khaddam and Bayanouni, but "I and other figures played a role in stopping this statement. Instead we just stood back from the meeting. I see Khaddam meeting Bayanouni as a political necessity to build a political framework that is an alternative to the regime."
Veteran dissident Riad al-Turk told the London-based pan-Arab daily al-Hayat (Arabic. 3/20/06) that he was not comfortable with forming two fronts: the Damascus Declaration and the National Salvation Front, characterizing the Brussels meeting as a "punishment" for the Damascus Declaration leaders' slow and hesitant performance. He added, "had the Declaration proceeded according to its plan and general political direction, and formed a flexible and dynamic structure, the Brussels meeting would not have succeeded."
Nevertheless, Turk hoped the Front would be "a pillar of the general political line calling for democratic change and the safeguarding of national independence, and not fall in the same crisis as in Iraq." He also expressed his discomfort with Khaddam's past, and that there should be self-criticism and accountability for this past.
Meanwhile, Hasan Abdel Azim, the spokesman for the National Democratic Rally, an opposition coalition inside Syria, denied any relation with the Brussels meeting and told Agence France Presse, "Bayanouni made two big mistakes: first in meeting
Khaddam and launching the National Salvation Front, and then by not
consulting [with the Damascus Declaration groups]," i.e., the opposition figures inside the country. (Arabic version here.Via Elaph, 3/20/06.)
Abdel Azim further echoed Turk's apprehension about the Front possibly undermining or coming in conflict with the Damascus Declaration saying, "The [opposition] leadership at home is the closest to events and the most effective," adding, "we respect the outside forces whose action complements that of the opposition living in Syria but they can not take its place."
Abdel Azim also told al-Hayat (Arabic. 3/20/06) that "The Temporary Committee of the Damascus Declaration" will soon meet to declare an official position on the "National Salvation Front." He stressed that the opposition inside Syria calls for gradual, peaceful democratic change ... without any ties with foreign parties."
Other figures, like Ahmad Abu Saleh al-Naqab, attacked the Brussels meeting more directly, calling (Arabic. Elaph, 3/23/06) Bayanouni's alliance with Khaddam "shameful," and criticized Khaddam's past. He also suspected that it may be willing to resort to foreign powers and to repeat the Iraqi experience.