Opposition activists from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect called for his overthrow on Sunday, Al Arabiya reported. The activists urged their co-religionists in the army to rebel.
It was the first meeting of its kind by Alawites who support the revolt. Delegates to the convention distanced themselves from Assad's crackdown against the uprising that has been raging in Syria for two years, in which 70,000 people have been killed.
"We call on our brothers in the Syrian army, specifically members of our sect, not to take up arms against their people and to refuse to join the army," the delegates said in a statement after two days of meeting in Cairo.
“The last card the regime can play is civil war and dividing the country,” they said.
The Alawite opposition figures met in Cairo "to support a democratic alternative to Assad’s rule and try to distance the community from wholesale association with the government’s attempts to crush a two-year uprising," Al Arabiya explained.
"As the war takes on an increasingly sectarian bent," the Saudi-based news source wrote, "severing the Alawite fate from that of Assad could be crucial for the survival of the community, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam that comprises about 10 percent of Syria’s population."