Syrian opposition fails to form transitional government

Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:24am EST
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By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Syrian opposition leaders said on Monday they had failed to agree on a transitional government to run rebel-held areas, dealing a fresh blow to their efforts to present a credible alternative to President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) said in a statement that a five-member committee would put forward proposals on forming a government within 10 days, after talks in an Istanbul hotel broke up without agreement on an interim prime minister.

Formation of a government is seen as a threat to some members of the SNC, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, which would lose influence if a smaller executive body were elected.

The Istanbul talks, the opposition's second bid to form a government, have only highlighted divisions in the coalition and risk undermining support for the umbrella grouping, formed two months ago in Qatar with Western and Gulf backing.

Power struggles within the 70-member coalition have undermined efforts to agree on a transitional government, even as Syria slides further into sectarian conflict between the Sunni Muslim majority and Assad's minority Alawite sect.

"This is a big blow for the revolution against Bashar al-Assad," said one Syrian opposition leader who attended the meeting but who did not want to be named because he operates underground in Syria.

He said that half of the SNC opposed the idea of a transitional government altogether, even after the group abandoned a previous stipulation that coalition members would not be allowed to serve in the government.

The coalition, dominated by Islamists and their allies, said in its statement its five-strong committee would consult opposition forces, the Free Syrian Army and friendly states over the political and financial commitments needed to make a government viable.   Continued...

Fighters from Fateh al Sham unit of the Free Syrian Army enter a house in Haresta neighbourhood of Damascus January 20, 2013. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic