CAIRO A group of exiled Syrian activists announced a new opposition alliance on Tuesday that aims to form a transitional government - a challenge to the Syrian National Council (SNC), a longer established group that they said had failed.
The launch of the "Council for the Syrian Revolution" marks the latest effort by Syria's divided opposition to forge a political alternative to President Bashar al-Assad whose forces are trying to put down a 16-month armed uprising.
"The brothers have asked me to form a transitional government in Syria and to begin dialogue with the rest of the Syrian opposition," Haitham al-Maleh, a former judge, told a Cairo news conference called to unveil the new body.
Maleh told Reuters the new alliance would act as an alternative to the SNC which he said "had failed to help the Syrian revolution". It would work to get more help to rebels, he said.
Western and Arab states have for months been urging the Syrian opposition to unite. While the SNC has been an international voice for the opposition, activists on the ground have complained that the exiled leadership has little connection to what is happening in Syria.
Maleh, a long-standing dissident against the Assad family's four decades in power, resigned from the SNC in March, saying he had given up trying to make the group more effective.
"We are not asking for military intervention, such as an invasion, but international protection, such as stopping Syrian planes," he said.
The Syrian military has stepped up a military campaign to drive rebels out of Aleppo, the country's biggest city. Outgunned rebel fighters are facing much heavier weapons including helicopter gunships.
"When Aleppo is freed, we will have the northern part of Syria and will ask (the opposition) to return home," Maleh said.
The Council for the Syrian Revolution comprises 70 opposition figures and will be based in Cairo, with branches in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.
"The movement includes members from the Syrian National Council yet its formation is meant to also tell the council that it is not the only body entitled to act on behalf of all the opposition," said Ahmed Jalal el-Sayed, one of its members.
Reacting to the formation of the new group, SNC head Abdelbasset Seida said all opposition figures were free to work in the way they thought would help the Syrian revolution.
"But the process of forming a transitional government is difficult and needs consultations with all members of the Syrian opposition, rebels and the Free Syrian Army," Seida told Reuters.
"But if each group came out alone announcing a formation of a new government without talks and research, this would end up in having a series of weak governments that don't represent anyone and would not be able to mean or do anything," he said.
"Our end goal is to form a government that would represent and please all members of the Syrian community."
(Writing by Tom Perry and Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)