Syrian opposition fails to form transitional government

ISTANBUL Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:23am EST

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

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

Credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

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.

UNRULY REBELS

Sources at the negotiations said on Sunday that SNC President Moaz Alkhatib had flown to Qatar to secure promises of financial aid for a transitional government in rebel-held areas.

Alkhatib, a moderate Damascus preacher, is on the committee, along with businessman Mustafa al-Sabbagh, who is close to Qatar, and tribal figure Ahmad Jarba, who has good ties with regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia.

Rebels have wrested large swathes of Syria from the control of Assad's forces but the opposition's failure to provide basic services, mounting reports of indiscipline and looting by rebel fighters have undermined public support for their cause.

Some coalition members in favour of forming a government to restore a semblance of order to rebel-run areas said the SNC, controlled by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, had thwarted the proposal. The Brotherhood and supporters were not immediately available for comment.

The United Nations says at least 60,000 people have been killed in 22 months of conflict, and many fear rival regional powers could be drawn into the crisis should Assad's departure leave Syria divided along the Sunni-Shi'ite fault line.

That division has been deepening since the Arab Spring revolts began in Tunisia two years ago, toppling dictators in four Arab countries and ushering in Islamist political ascendancy.

The rise of jihadist rebels in the last few months as a dominant force in the armed opposition, and the possibility of a backlash by the Sunni majority against Assad's Alawite minority, has made international powers hold back from supporting the increasingly radicalised, mostly Sunni rebels.

INTERIM PM CANDIDATE

With little immediate prospect of an internationally brokered deal to remove Assad, any prime minister named by the coalition would have to be acceptable to rebels who have been making incremental gains on the ground despite massive air and artillery bombardment.

Naming a transitional government was part of the original agreement under which the coalition was formed last year.

But opposition sources say some distrust Western powers, believing they are influencing the formation of an opposition government that would negotiate with Assad and keep the minority-ruled police state intact.

The only name put forward at the Istanbul meeting as a possible transitional prime minister was Riad Hijab, a former Syrian premier - the highest ranking member of Assad's inner circle to defect since the revolt erupted in March 2011.

Veteran opposition campaigner Kamal Labwani, a respected former political prisoner, said Hijab would be an efficient cabinet chief despite his past in the Assad administration.

"Hijab should be given a chance. After two years of trying it is someone else's turn."

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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Comments (4)
Fromkin wrote:
This article is full of lies and ridiculous statements. Here are a few.

Lie 1:

“That division has been deepening since the Arab Spring revolts began in Tunisia two years ago, toppling dictators in four Arab countries and ushering in Islamist political ascendancy.”

The toppled dictators were Puppets removed from service by their masters. Assad is nobody’s puppet. He is a son of a Hero that Syrians chose to lead in recognition of his father service to Syria. Assad is the most educated and progressist leader in that region.

Ridiculous statement 1:

“With little immediate prospect of an internationally brokered deal to remove Assad, any prime minister named by the coalition would have to be acceptable to rebels who have been making incremental gains on the ground despite massive air and artillery bombardment.”

So the US and allies wanted to use the UN to remove a head of state. This is an illegal move contrary to UN charter.

repeating rebels are making “incremental gains” is a lie. They have failed to overthrow the Syrian government. What about their incremental losses?

Saying an agreement has be acceptable to “rebels” simply means to be acceptable to US. People are not fooled anymore.

… “keep the minority-ruled police state intact.”

This can only result from hate of the Syrian government. Saudi Arabia,Qatar, Algeria, Marocco, UEA, Jordan,even Turkey are police state but they will never be described as such by Reuters’ Syrian government hating journalists.

A big lie:

“… even as Syria slides further into sectarian conflict between the Sunni Muslim majority and Assad’s minority Alawite sect”

This is the biggest lie. The conflict is between the West and Syria. The West which is using terrorism thinks that by removing Assad from power, it will ofer protection to Israel(to continue attacking its neighbors with impunity) and open a new front to attack Iran.

Sectarian divide is being used by Syria’s enemies as a tool to divide and conquer BUT the conflict IS NOT SECTARIAN. Definitely not between Sunnis against Alawite sect. This is a racist statement that is offensive and needs to be repudiate by every human being with conscience. This statement prepares the ground for a genocide which will only profit Syrians’enemies.

Jan 21, 2013 8:38am EST  --  Report as abuse
mcanterel wrote:
Reuters, say it simply: a bunch of traitors paid and sponsored by dictator kings and their Western masters WILL NEVER be accepted by any patriotic Syrian, not even a staunch opponent of the current government.

The rest of your reporting, for the last 2 years, is only result of hubris, and dementia in helping the rapists and assassins topple all popular legitimacy in all Arab states not ruled by a despotic king or emir.

Oh, the West want to help Arabs reach democracy, like in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, Kuweit, Bahrain, Oman, UAE. Those are your friends. Keep them!

Jan 21, 2013 9:44am EST  --  Report as abuse
mcanterel wrote:
Remember Ghalioun, the pied piper, SNC faceplate leader by virtue of his Western masters? He openned a tobacco shop in Paris!

Remember Riad Al-As’ad (“the dimwit”, not to confuse with Assad which means “Lion”)? Well, just like “General Hummus” before him (google it!), this traitor is oppening a Falafel shop, albeit in Ankara, and not Tel Aviv, for practical reasons.

Just who is stupid enough to take these bozo criminal traitors seriously?

Jan 21, 2013 11:08am EST  --  Report as abuse
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