First Published: 2012-11-08

 

Islamists dominate new leadership of Syrian National Council

 

Main opposition Syrian National Council, under pressure to unite, elects new leadership with Islamists heavily represented.

 

Middle East Online

By Acil Tabbara – DOHA

Will new leadership win Western support?

The main opposition Syrian National Council, under pressure to unite and bring in all parties, has elected a new leadership with Islamists heavily represented, SNC officials said on Thursday.

They said a president of the opposition coalition would be chosen on Friday, after the 40-member general secretariat was elected overnight at a meeting in the Qatari capital.

The secretariat is tasked with electing 11 members to appoint a successor to outgoing president Abdel Basset Sayda.

The process has been delayed until Friday to allow four members representing women and minorities to be added to the secretariat ahead of the vote, the officials said.

Sayda remains a secretariat member but other prominent figures such as his predecessor Burhan Ghalioun, George Sabra and Riad Seif do not figure in the new list, effectively ruling them out as SNC president.

Some 400 SNC members voted from 29 lists of groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ranging from liberals to the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as ethnic minorities and tribes.

Islamists, including at least five Muslim Brotherhood members, account for around a third of the new secretariat, with the Kurdish and Assyrian minorities also represented but no women.

"Under our statutes, we can add four members. So we will designate two women and two members representing the religious minorities," Ahmad Ramadan, a member of the new team, said.

SNC officials said a Christian and an Alawite, a member of the Shiite sect to which Assad belongs in Sunni-majority Syria, could thus be added to the team.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, who has urged the opposition to close ranks, is due to take part in broader meeting on Thursday called by his organisation and hosts Qatar of a wide range of Syrian groups.

Preparations must start for a transitional government to be ready when "there are changes on the ground" in Syria, the Arab League chief said on Wednesday before travelling to Doha.

But the SNC said the "only body that can form a transitional government is a general national congress bringing together all political opposition forces, in which the SNC would hold the biggest share."

The SNC statement appeared to challenge an initiative proposed by prominent dissident Seif to unify the opposition which is expected to top the agenda of Thursday's broader meeting.

The SNC also called for "holding the national congress in Syria on liberated territory when that is possible," and insisted that "a transitional government would not be announced before firm guarantees of international recognition."

The SNC, which has been meeting in Doha since Sunday, has already agreed to include 13 new groups in its structure as it bids to become more inclusive.

But US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Monday appeared to play down the move, saying restructuring required more than numbers.

"We've said from the beginning... that we expect that the SNC itself will be part of the opposition structure that emerges from the Doha process... but that other groups in addition to the SNC will also be represented."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week called the SNC unrepresentative of opposition forces on the ground and said it "can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition."

Washington wants the opposition to reshape into a widely representative government-in-exile.

But the SNC -- which was set up six months after the uprising against the Assad regime erupted in March last year -- has accused Washington of undermining the revolt and "sowing the seeds of division."

Sayda has insisted that the group must remain the "cornerstone" of any revamped Syrian opposition force.

 

New government in Yemen plus cut in fuel prices

11 Egypt policemen killed in Sinai bomb blast

US army back in Somalia

Paris, Riyadh 'finalising' $3bn Lebanon arms deal

Sudan orders Iran to close cultural centres

Syria arrests pro-regime activists over criticism

Libya pro-Islamist figure presents rival cabinet lineup

Israel faces mounting criticism over Palestinian land grab

Saudi Arabia arrests 88 suspected extremists in 'anti-terror' drive

New UN chief for South Sudan faces ‘huge challenge’

US air strikes target senior Shebab officials in Somalia

‘Scourge of terrorism’ pushes Africa to intensify cooperation

Relatives of missing Iraq soldiers storm parliament in Baghdad

IS accused of 'systematic ethnic cleansing' in Iraq

UK announces tougher measures against Britons planning jihad

Algeria hosts new round of Mali peace talks

US launches new round of air strikes around Iraq dam

Turkey summons US charge d'affaires over Snowden claims

Turkey new PM promises peace with Kurds

Will UN Human Rights Council investigate IS abuses?

Iran convicts Ahmadinejad's vice president for embezzlement

Fierce clashes shatter uneasy calm near armistice line in Golan Heights

Turkey detains dozens of police in new nationwide raids

Libya loses control of Tripoli to Islamist-led militias

Thousands of Huthis defy UN in new show of strength

Iraq presses fightback against jihadist-led militants

Wounded Gazans need long-term care

Britain to go tougher on jihadist suspects

Libyan Islamist militiamen control US embassy compound

Israel shoots down drone over occupied Golan Heights

Yemen army suffers heavy losses in new wave of Qaeda attacks

Turkish army breaks silence on Kurdish peace talks

Islamic State offers grim inspiration to African extremists

Shebab target intelligence HQ in Somalia

Israel expropriates 988 acres of Palestinian land in West Bank

Iraq recaptures Amerli from Islamic State in biggest success so far

Saudi King calls for ‘strong and rapid action’ against jihadists

Jihadists distribute Yazidi women as spoils of war to fighters

Gulf countries resolve six-month dispute with Qatar

Egypt reduces Badie death sentence to life in prison

AU forces liberate former Shebab stronghold in Somalia

Philippines enters war in Syria!

Kurds put aside old rivalries to battle jihadists in Iraq

Iran says new sanctions cast doubt on US sincerity

US imposes new sanctions on Iran