Difficult birth of unified Syrian national coalition

Compromise between Sabra and Seif reached

DOHA - Syrian opposition groups meeting in Doha have agreed in principle on a plan to unite against President Bashar al-Assad, participants announced early Sunday following marathon talks.
"We have agreed on the main points of the formation of a Syrian national coalition for the forces of the opposition and the revolution. We will continue our discussions on the details on Sunday," opposition figure Suhair Atassi said after 12 hours of talks.
"We were on the point of signing (the accord) but we preferred to give some time to study the internal rules at the request of certain parties," said fellow delegate Riad Seif, reportedly seen by Washington as a potential new opposition chief.
The participants were set to resume their talks at 0700 GMT.
It came after the Syrian National Council (SNC) came under increased Arab and Western pressure to accept an opposition unity plan, amid growing frustration among other dissident groups.
Once regarded as the leading opposition representative but increasingly derided in Washington as dominated by out-of-touch exiles, the SNC had already twice asked for a postponement of the talks on plans for a broad-based government-in-waiting.
The deal is based on an initiative by Seif that envisages the formation of a transitional government, a military council to oversee rebel groups on the ground and a judiciary to operate in rebel-held areas.
The 10-member transitional government would be elected by a new 60-member umbrella group drawn from civilian activists and rebel fighters inside Syria, as well as by the exiles who have dominated the SNC.
On Saturday the SNC had put forward its own proposals and its new leader George Sabra told reporters in Doha that "the SNC is older than... any other initiative" on the table, adding that no opposition group should be forced under the banner of another.
According to watchdog the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 37,000 people have died since the uprising against President Assad erupted in March 2011, first as a protest movement and then as an armed rebellion.