Opposition coalition to form provisional Syrian government
After eight days of talks the Syrian opposition yesterday established a new coalition naming Mouaz al-Khatib, a dissident Muslim preacher, as its head.
The National Coalition of Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition would represent 90 per cent of factions, stated Yasser Tabbara, legal adviser to the team seeking to unite the fractious opposition.
The proposal for the council was put forward by activist Riad Seif in consultation with US ambassador Robert Ford.
Formerly based at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Mr Khatib has the backing of local opposition groups and the Muslim Brotherhood, the most influential rebel faction.
The coalition will establish a provisional government inside Syria, unite local military councils, and form judicial bodies and humanitarian committees.
France has pledged to be the first to recognise the coalition, which seeks financial backing and weapons for its campaign to topple the regime.
Unable to convince other factions to join its ranks and under strong pressure from Qatar and the West to join the new body, the expatriate Syrian National Council was allocated 22 seats in the 60 member leadership. But, determined to remain independent, the council elected its own executive, headed by George Sabra, a Christian.
In Syria, air strikes were reported at Douma, 10km north of Damascus, and towns near Aleppo. Syrian troops destroyed a ship carrying rebels on the Euphrates in the northeast while Kurdish militiamen have taken control of three towns near the border with Turkey after fighting flared in the town of Ras al-Ain when rebels moved in on Friday. Helicopters bombed the town and border crossing which rebels have used to bring supplies and arms into Syria.
The army took sections of the Damascus-Aleppo highway although the rebels remain in the town of Maarat al-Numan, a focus of recent fighting.
Israel fired retaliatory tank rounds into Syria for the first time since the 1973 war after a stray mortar struck a guard post in the Golan Heights, and warned that further fire would elicit a strong response.
British defence chief Sir David Richards said “limited” British military intervention in Syria was “something we’ve got to look at” if the humanitarian situation deteriorated or violence affected other countries.