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.

 

Turkey concedes including Assad in Syria talks

Trump to be sworn in as 45th US president

IS demolishes two more monuments in Palmyra

Iran losing hope of saving trapped firefighters

More than 40 jihadists killed in north Syria air strikes

Netanyahu congratulates ‘friend’ Trump in tweet

Israel denounces Belgian plan to interrogate ex-minister

Denmark grants soldiers permission to fight IS in Syria

Car bomb near Benghazi mosque wounds 12

UN calls IS destruction of Palmyra relics ‘war crime’

Armed settlers rescued from angry Palestinian villagers

Petition filed for Israeli court to return body of Bedouin

29 Yemen rebels killed by Saudi-led air strikes

Algeria’s Islamist parties unite ahead of April elections

British worker dies on Qatar 2022 World Cup site

Search continues for trapped Iran firefighters

Trump to retain envoy to anti-IS coalition

More than 20 firefighters feared dead in Tehran building collapse

Explosions in Gaza target Fatah member

UN expert tells Saudi to end ban on women driving

Desalination plant opens in Gaza to tackle water crisis

Syria’s Assad hopes rebels disarm after Astana talks

UN says 400,000 Syrian child refugees in Turkey not in school

Libya PM skips Davos to focus on electricity crisis

Greece, Cyprus insist peace deal must include Turkish withdrawal

Mistura to lead UN delegation at Astana Syria talks

Turkey slams French satire song about Istanbul attack

Saudi minister says kingdom to become ‘softer’ after reforms

Bahrain lifts ban on electronic Al-Wasat newspaper

Arab Israelis strike in protest over house demolitions

Iran sees Syria talks as opportunity to gain influence

Kuwait upholds sentence for three royals for insulting judges

Tunisia facing mounting calls against jail-for-joint law

Iran's oldest high-rise building on fire collapses

IMF says Egypt on track for next aid tranche

Bahrain police disperse Shiite protesters

Key Syria rebel group opts out of Astana peace talks

Moroccan Sufi ‘living master’ dies at 95

France says Iraqi jihadist among 2015 stadium bombers

Russia, Turkey stage first joint air strikes against IS in Syria

IS advances on terrified citizens of Syria’s Deir Ezzor

In path to greater executive power, Erdogan faces weak Turkey economy

Switzerland drops war crimes case against former Algerian defence minister

Patience wears thin in Iraq's Fallujah

Iraq forces 'liberate' eastern Mosul