Syrians create dissident group

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Syrian dissidents meeting here announced Tuesday that they have formed a national council to coordinate their efforts to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The formation of the National Council of Syria was intended to help give an identity to an opposition that despite months of bloody anti-Assad rallies appears largely leaderless and without common goals.

The membership of the council, however, was not specified, though a spokesman said it would include 115 to 120 members from all factions of Syria's opposition groups. About half of that membership was to be drawn from dissidents inside Syria.

Yaser Tabbara, a spokesman, said the names of those still in Syria likely would remain secret for their own safety.

Chile preparing for nationwide shutdown

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile is bracing for a nationwide, two-day shutdown as unions, students and center-left political parties demand fundamental changes in society.

They want to replace Chile's dictatorship-era constitution, which concentrates vast power in the presidency, with a new charter enabling popular referendums and making free quality education a right for all citizens. They also want pension reforms, a new labor code and more health care spending.

Chile's largest union coalition called the strike for today and Thursday to join forces with the high school and university students boycotting classes for three months now. They have support from the center-left coalition that governed Chile for 20 years before President Sebastian Pinera brought the right wing back into the presidential palace last year.