New Syrian opposition body chooses Cairo as base

CAIRO Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:37am EST

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Syria's new opposition coalition will set up its headquarters in Cairo, the hub of Arab diplomacy, as it lobbies foreign powers for recognition as the war-torn country's legitimate government, officials in the movement said.

Mouaz Alkhatib, a moderate Sunni Muslim cleric who fled Syria for Cairo in July, was elected on Sunday to head the coalition, the latest attempt to present a united front after more than a year of bickering among Bashar al-Assad's opponents.

Twenty months of conflict have killed more than 38,000 people, leaving insurgents with few weapons to fight Assad's air force and heavy artillery.

The opposition is under growing pressure to form a body that can rule after him as rebels advance on the ground and the country slides further into economic and social chaos.

"The decision has been taken to make Cairo the permanent headquarters for the Syrian opposition coalition to meet and plan ahead," an aide to Alkhatib said on condition of anonymity.

Prominent coalition member Walid el-Bunni from the former Syrian National Council (SNC) confirmed the decision on Wednesday and said the movement was in talks with the Egyptian government to finalize arrangements for the new headquarters.

Six Arab Gulf countries and France have announced their support for the coalition but it still lacks full recognition from the United States, other European countries and the Arab League.

(Reporting by Marwa Awad; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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