Syrian opposition strikes unity deal
By Rania El Gamal
DOHA (Reuters) - Syrian opposition leaders struck a hard-won deal on Sunday under intense international pressure to form a broad, new coalition to prepare for the fall of President Bashar al-Assad.
Delegates, who had struggled for days in the Qatari capital Doha to find the unity their Western and Arab backers have long urged, said the new body would ensure a voice for religious and ethnic minorities and for the rebels fighting on the ground, who have complained of being overlooked by exiled dissident groups.
Some details remain outstanding, including who will head the new Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces and the final assent of some leaders not present in Doha.
Diplomats and officials from the United States and Qatar, the tiny Gulf emirate whose oil and gas wealth has helped fund the 20-month-old uprising, have particularly been pressing the Syrian National Council (SNC), whose leaders mostly live abroad, to drop fierce objections to joining a wider body.
"An initial deal has been signed. A final formulation has been agreed and signed," Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni, a delegate for the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood, told reporters.
"The evening session will be for electing the president of the body and his deputy," he added. The meeting was due to resume around 6 p.m. (1500 GMT).
Delegates said there would be specific representation for women and ethnic Kurds as well as for Christians and Alawites, the religious minority to which Assad belongs and from which he has drawn much of the leadership of his security forces.
It was not entirely clear whether full agreement had been reached, however. Continued...