Syrian rebel leader calls for `Marshall Plan`
Berlin: A Syrian opposition leader called on Tuesday for a massive aid program to help rebuild his country after President Bashar Assad`s regime falls, warning that a lack of economic development could open the door to extremism.
A top German official representing donor nations, meanwhile, said Syria`s opposition factions must overcome their current divisions.
Abdelbaset Sieda, the head of the Syrian National Council, told a meeting of Syrian opposition representatives and diplomats that Syria would need a program similar to the Marshall Plan, the post-World War II European reconstruction effort, if the Assad regime collapses.
He said Assad`s regime has devastated public finances and institutions to such an extent that Syria won`t be able to rely immediately or solely on oil revenues and taxes in any rebuilding effort.
"In the aftermath of the destruction ... We are convinced Syria needs a Marshall-style plan to ensure it stands again on solid financial and economic ground," Sieda said in Berlin.
"Without real comprehensive development, we will open up the opportunity for the growth of all kinds of extremism."
The gathering on economic rebuilding, which Germany chairs jointly with the United Arab Emirates, aimed to address how to prevent basic services and infrastructure from collapsing and how to revive the economy in a post-Assad Syria.
Without identifying any countries by name, Sieda also warned that any nation now helping the Assad regime could not expect to get its money back under a new government.
"The Syrian people are not bound by any contract signed by the regime after the beginning of this revolution, or any sale of treasury bonds or purchase of weapons or contracts with any country," he said.
Russia, in particular, has been criticised for blocking UN sanctions against Syria and continuing to supply it with military material throughout the conflict.
Assad regime officials have also asked Russia for loans to replenish Syria`s hard currency reserves, which have been depleted by international embargoes on Syrian exports.
The meeting`s host, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, said economic recovery and a successful political transition must go hand in hand, and called on the international community to be ready to provide economic support.
"There can be no doubt, the days of the regime are numbered: it has lost all legitimacy to represent the Syrian people, it is crumbling from inside," Westerwelle said. "On the international level it is increasingly isolated; the overwhelming majority of countries reject the massive violation of human rights; there is no future for Bashar Assad in a new Syria."
Today, the UN refugee agency said 100,000 refugees fled Syria in August, the highest monthly total since the uprising began.
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