Syrian opposition to hold runoff vote Saturday for new leader

ISTANBUL Fri Jul 5, 2013 9:33pm EDT

George Sabra, a veteran Christian opposition figure and acting President of the Syrian National Coalition, (C) chairs a meeting in Istanbul July 4, 2013. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

George Sabra, a veteran Christian opposition figure and acting President of the Syrian National Coalition, (C) chairs a meeting in Istanbul July 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Murad Sezer

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The Syrian opposition voted on Saturday to elect a new leader, but the top two candidates failed to gain a simple majority needed to become president of the coalition fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

A runoff ballot was scheduled for later on Saturday after Ahmad Jarba, a tribal figure linked with Saudi Arabia, and Mustafa al-Sabbagh, a businessman who is Qatar's point man, did not gain more than half of the votes in the 115 member Syrian National Coalition in an early morning ballot in Istanbul.

The coalition is split into three power centers: the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sabbagh faction, and a Saudi-backed bloc that includes Jarba.

The three factions held the vote for a new leader after failing to agree on a compromise candidate.

The coalition has been without a leader for months after its head quit over disagreement over potential talks with Assad's government.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Philip Barbara)

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