By Arab News
A Syrian opposition leader called yesterday 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.
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.
His appeal came as the UN refugee agency said yesterday that 100,000 refugees fled Syria in August, the highest monthly total since the uprising began.
The rise in people seeking asylum in neighboring countries brings the total of Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration to over 234,360, spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in Geneva.
The Syrian opposition leader also said that Assad’s regime had 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.
The gathering on economic rebuilding, which Germany chairs jointly with the UAE, aimed to address how to prevent basic services and infrastructure from collapsing and how to revive the economy in a post-Assad Syria.
Sieda also warned that any nation now helping the Assad regime could not expect to get its money back under a new government.
The meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, called for a transition government to be installed as quickly as possible in Syria, saying Assad’s regime was “crumbling from inside.”
He called for a “common platform of all opposition groups” that was “committed to democracy, tolerance and pluralism.”