Bashar Assad
Photo: AP

Syrian opposition chooses Saudi-backed leader

New president of main Western-backed opposition group fills post empty for months, as gov't troops push into rebel-held areas of Homs

The main Western-backed Syrian opposition group elected a former political prisoner Saturday as its new president, filling a post that has been vacant for months due to divisions among President Bashar Assad's opponents.


Inside Syria, government troops advanced into rebel-held areas of the central city of Homs, pushing into a heavily contested neighborhood after pummeling it with artillery that drove out opposition fighters, an activist said Saturday.


Related stories:


The Syrian National Coalition said in a statement that Ahmad al-Jarba received 55 votes from the 114-member council in the poll that took place in the Turkish city of Istanbul, where many Syrian opposition figures are based.


Al-Jarba is from the northeastern province of Hassakeh, and is a member of the powerful Shammar tribe that extends into Iraq. He and other SNC members could not be immediately reached for comment Saturday.


The opposition coalition also elected three vice presidents including Mohammed Farouk Taifour, a senior official with Syria's Muslim Brotherhood. The other two vice presidents are Salem al-Mislit and prominent opposition figure Suhair Atassi. Badr Jamous was voted in as the SNC's secretary general.


The SNC meeting is the second attempt in recent months by Assad's opponents to unify their ranks. The opposition bloc is primarily composed of exiled politicians with little support among Syrians inside the country who are trying to survive the third summer of conflict that has killed more than 93,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.


In late May, the opposition leaders met for more than a week in Istanbul, but failed to elect new leaders or devise a strategy for possible peace talks that the US and Russia have been trying to convene in Geneva. The election of al-Jarba suggests that the opposition is trying to unite despite its differences after Assad's forces have gained ground in and around the strategic town of Qusair near the border with Lebanon.


The vote also comes as the US and Russia hope to bring the sides together at an international conference in Geneva. The SNC said recently it will not attend the Geneva talks unless they are about Assad handing over power.


Assad repeatedly has dismissed his political opponents as foreign-directed exiles who don't represent the people of Syria. The president also has shrugged off international calls to step down, saying he will serve the rest of his term and may consider running for another one in next year's presidential elections.


Fighting continued Saturday in the northern city of Aleppo, a crucial stronghold for the rebels, as well as the Damascus suburb of Qaboun.


Reuters contributed to this story



  • Receive Ynetnews updates directly to your desktop



פרסום ראשון: 07.06.13, 20:59
 new comment
This will delete your current comment