The new head of Syria's main opposition group has called for mass defections from a Syrian regime struggling to survive by carrying out massacres, as the death toll in the uprising topped 14,000.
Similar calls were made by the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), which also urged a campaign of mass "civil disobedience" to ratchet up internal pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's beleaguered regime.
"We are entering a sensitive phase. The regime is on its last legs," Kurdish activist Abdel Basset Sayda told AFP shortly after being named the new leader of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) on Sunday.
"The multiplying massacres and shellings show that it is struggling," he said of mass deaths of civilians. In the most recent, 20 people, mostly women and children, were killed in a bombardment of Daraa on Saturday.
At his first news conference since taking over the reins, Sayda called on all members of the Damascus regime to defect, while reaching out to minority groups by promising them a full say in a future, democratic Syria.
He replaced Paris-based academic Burhan Ghalioun, who stepped down last month in the face of mounting splits that were undermining the group's credibility.
Sayda, 55, has lived in exile in Sweden for two decades and is seen as a consensus candidate who can reconcile rival factions within the SNC and broaden its appeal among Syria's ethnic and confessional groups.
Russia and China, infuriated by the NATO campaign in Libya last year, have vowed to oppose any military intervention, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague has refused to rule out the possibility.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 57 people killed nationwide on Sunday - 37 civilians, 16 soldiers, three army deserters and one rebel fighter.
The latest deaths bring to more than 14,100 the toll since March last year, including 9862 civilians, 3470 soldiers and 783 army deserters.