Syrian opposition leaders fail to form government

Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:50pm EST
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By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Oliver Holmes

ISTANBUL/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian opposition leaders said on Monday they had failed to put together a transitional government to run rebel-held areas of the country, a blow to the exiled group trying to present an alternative to President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

Political efforts to resolve the conflict have largely faltered because of the rebels' failure to form a unified front and because world powers are backing opposing sides.

Talks held by representatives of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), a 70-member umbrella group dominated by Islamists and their allies, in Istanbul at the weekend only highlighted divisions in the coalition.

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

Sources at the negotiations in Turkey said SNC President Moaz Alkhatib had flown to Qatar while the meeting was still in progress to ask for financial aid for a transitional government.

The SNC said in a statement a five-member committee would offer proposals for forming a government within 10 days.

However, the only name put forward at the meeting as a possible transitional prime minister was Riad Hijab, a former Syrian premier.

Veteran opposition campaigner Kamal Labwani, said Hijab - the highest ranking member of Assad's inner circle to defect since the revolt erupted in March 2011 - would be an efficient cabinet chief despite his past in the Assad administration.   Continued...

A fighter from the Free Syrian Army's Tahrir al Sham brigade looks at a building destroyed during yesterday's Syrian Air force air strike in Mleha suburb of Damascus January 21, 2013. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic