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.


At least 13 killed in Yemen wedding bombing

Israel-Palestinian unrest at risk of turning into religious war

Israeli PM bars ministers from Al-Aqsa compound

US has not yet made decision on Syria no-fly zone

Russian volunteers fighting for Assad regime

Three more stabbing attacks as Palestine-Israel violence continues

Violence in Jerusalem continues

Turkey gives EU's migrant plan offer lukewarm reception

Erdogan uses nuclear, gas deals to pressure Russia over Syria

HRW urges statement from West over imprisoned Bahrain dissidents

EU aim to have migrant 'hotspots' ready by end of November ‘unrealistic’

After nuclear deal, Iran takes central role to end Syria war

Escape or temporary move: Erdogan son settles in Italy

ISIS attack complicates task for Arab coalition in Yemen

Syria army launches broad ground operation in Hama province

Number of confirmed cholera cases rises to 1,200 in Iraq

Russia ‘ready’ to establish contacts with Free Syrian Army

Turkey arrests six people over 'minting coins for ISIS’

US insists no military cooperation with Russia in Syria conflict

Russia warships fire cruise missiles to back Syria army operation

New violence rocks Israel, West Bank

Mortar attack wounds Lebanon soldiers near border with Syria

Iraq forces recapture several areas around Ramadi

Saleh’s party ‘ready’ for UN-brokered Yemen peace

Erdogan’s vision of Syria’s future torn up by Putin

IS bombings will not deter Yemen govt from staying in Aden

EU to ease Turkey migrant burden on conditions

EU kicks off military operation against ‘mafia of the sea’

Russia air strikes targeting Chechen jihadists in Syria

Russia examining US proposals to coordinate Syria strikes

Russia hints at willingness on Syria 'deconfliction' with US

France may strip five terrorists of nationality

Israel demolition policy: Collective punishment in violation of international law

Violence in Yemen may trigger world's next great refugee crisis

EU to 'step up' work on resettlement of refugees from Turkey

Tunisia dismantles three ISIS recruitment cells

Russia not cooperating with US in Syria safety talks

Halal economy set to grow worldwide

‘Islamic State’ claims series of deadly attacks in Yemen

Recent unrest leaves Netanyahu with tough political choices

NATO accuses Russia of violating Turkey airspace

Unpaid teachers in Iraq Kurdistan go on strike to end ‘farce’

Erdogan warns Russia not to destroy friendship with Turkey

Arab coalition troops among 15 killed in Yemen attacks

Russia has created ‘de facto no-fly zone’ for Assad