Former VP Abdel Halim Khaddam replied to statements made by Syrian president Bashar Assad to the London-based daily al-Hayat in which Assad derided the National Salvation Front (NSF). (Arabic. AKI, 6/27/06).
Assad had claimed the Syrian authorities and public received the formation of the NSF "with ridicule." (Arabic. Al-Hayat, 6/26/06). In a call to AKI, Khaddam replied, "if it was received with ridicule, then why the blind reaction arresting hundreds of people?" He added, "Bashar Assad knows that the Salvation Front is a reality among the Syrian people, and knows the extent of its reach in society. The people is suffering from repression and persecution, and there are millions of unemployed and deprived people looking for salvation and a better life. This is why the Salvation Front has a significant popular weight. We are not claiming it monopolizes the public, but it is one of the opposition currents that draw people in Syria, and the polling boxes will determine the country's political color. The entire society is for change, and the wall of fear has begun to crumble bit by bit."
As for Assad's claim that the NSF was receiving international political and financial aid., Khaddam said, "the Front has not contacted any state, Arab or foreign, but many states and political and social powers around the world realize how bad the situation is in Syria and feel the need of the Syrian people to be free." He did however point out that the NSF has sent letters to member states of the UN Security Council explaining the situation in Syria, and requesting "interference in order to protect the Syrian people."
Most recently, the NSF sent a letter to the first international conference for human rights in Geneva. (Arabic. "Free Syria," 6/22/06). It had also sent a letter to the European Union calling on it to support the Syrian people.
In a recently released statement, the temporary committee of the Damascus Declaration (DD) reasserted its independence from the NSF, but added that any problems could be resolved through dialogue "in order to safeguard the unity of the opposition and in the interest of national democratic change." (Arabic. ME Transparent, 6/12/06).
Similarly, Hasan Abdel Azim, the spokesman of the National Democratic Gathering in Syria (a coalition of five opposition groups) and member of the DD temporary committee, said that despite his reservations and criticisms against him, Khaddam's defection was "the regime's problem, not the opposition's," and "the NSF does not concern us. It's the regime's problem." As for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a member of both the NSF and the DD, Abdel Azim said, "we don't want to resort to procedures such as suspending or freezing their membership... The dialogue is ongoing ... for the sake of the unity of the opposition." (Arabic. Levant News, 6/16/06).
Back in April, another veteran dissident, Riad Turk, also said, "while we do not have to support Khaddam, we will not fight him on behalf of the regime," and thereby indirectly do the regime a favor. (Arabic. Elaph, 4/16/06). He added that the opposition was open to everyone, including Ba'athist defectors.