Syria opposition seeks support; Israel fires from Golan
By Rania El Gamal and Yasmine Saleh
DOHA/CAIRO (Reuters) - Syria's newly named opposition leader, a soft-spoken cleric backed by Washington and the Gulf Arab states, launched his quest on Monday for international recognition as a government-in-waiting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
In a sign of the danger that the civil war could spread across Syria's borders, Israeli forces said they fired "direct hits" on Syrian artillery in response to a mortar strike into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Western and Arab enemies of Assad hope the creation of a new Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces can finally unify a fractious and ineffective opposition.
Mouaz Alkhatib, a former imam of a Damascus mosque, flew to Cairo to seek the Arab League's blessing for the new assembly, the day after he was unanimously elected to lead it. He made a concerted effort to address the sectarian and ethnic acrimony underlying 20 months of civil war that has killed 38,000 people.
"We demand freedom for every Sunni, Alawi, Ismaili, Christian, Druze, Assyrian ... and rights for all parts of the harmonious Syrian people," he said, calling on Syrian soldiers to desert and all sects to unite.
His assembly was recognized by the six Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdoms of the Gulf Cooperation Council as "the legitimate representative of the Syrian people". Washington said it would back it "as it charts a course toward the end of Assad's bloody rule and the start of the peaceful, just, democratic future".
The Arab League welcomed the formation of the new body, called on other opposition groups to join it and described it as "a legitimate representative and a primary negotiator", but fell short of calling it the new authority in Syria.
Shooting across the line that divides Syria from the Israeli-occupied Golan was just the latest spillover of violence that has alarmed neighbors including Turkey and Lebanon. Continued...