Syrian opposition agrees in principle on a unity plan after talks in Doha

By Al Arabiya with agencies
Syrian opposition groups meeting in Doha have agreed in principle to form a united leadership early Sunday to pursue its war against Bashar al-Assad.

“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 told AFP 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 to AFP, reportedly seen by Washington as a potential new opposition chief. The participants were set to resume their talks in Doha at 0700 GMT.
The agreement comes after the Syrian National Council (SNC) has been under increased Arab and Western pressure to accept an opposition unity plan, amid growing frustration among other dissident groups.

The United States and Qatar, which has bankrolled the opposition to Assad and played a major role in Arab diplomacy against him, have kept up pressure on the SNC to agree a deal immediately, one diplomatic source told Reuters.

Both countries have urged the foreign-based SNC to join an anti-Assad grouping likely to be called the Syrian National Coalition. Seif, a prominent political dissident, has proposed that this would include armed rebel groups fighting in Syria such as the Free Syrian Army.

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.

Anti-Assad protests erupted nearly 20 months ago, meeting a violent response which led to a conflict that has cost more than 38,000 lives and threatens to spill into neighboring countries.

With some of the countries’ areas now being under their control, rebel gains have been limited by Assad’s control of the skies through his air force in fighting that has devastated Syrian cities.

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