Syria opposition seen uniting after U.S., Qatari push http://reut.rs/Q1xGf7
8:59 AM - 9 Nov 12 · Details
Syria opposition seen uniting after US, Qatari push
By Rania El Gamal and Regan Doherty
DOHA | Fri Nov 9, 2012 7:30am EST
(Reuters) - Syria's fractious opposition, under pressure from the United States and Qatar to unite, looked likely on Friday to agree to form an inclusive new opposition body that would serve as a unity government if Bashar al-Assad falls.
Qatar, which has bankrolled the opposition to Assad and played a leading role in Arab diplomacy against him, is hosting an opposition meeting, with senior U.S. diplomats hovering on the sidelines, prodding the opposition to make a deal.
Rebel advances on the ground and increasing economic and social disintegration within Syria have added to the pressure on the opposition to form a body that can rule after Assad.
A source inside meetings that lasted into the early hours of Friday morning said members of the Syrian National Council (SNC), a group made up mainly of exiled politicians, had shifted views and were coming to accept the need to form a wider body.
"We will not leave today without an agreement," the source said. "The body will be the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Once they get international recognition, there will be a fund for military support."
The new body would mirror the Transitional National Council that united the opposition to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya last year and then took power after he was ousted, the source suggested.
"They will create a 'temporary government', which could take control of embassies around the world and take Syria's seat at the U.N., because the regime would have lost its legitimacy."
An outline agreement could see the SNC and other opposition figures agree on a 60-member political assembly, or congress, as well as a military and a judicial council.
The SNC, which has previously been the main opposition group on the international stage, may have around a third of the seats in the new body but would otherwise lose much of its influence.
Though it was not yet clear whether the groups meeting in Doha will name members to the new body or broach the thorny issue of its leadership, its creation would mark an advance long sought by the United States and Qatar.
Foreign countries that oppose Assad are determined to push Syrian opposition figures to cooperate, which means bridging gaps between exiles and those working in Syria, and between liberals and increasingly powerful Islamist militants.
The West and its regional allies worry that were Assad to fall before the opposition unites behind a credible body capable of leading the country, increasingly powerful Islamist militia would quickly take Syria over.
"GET A MOVE ON"
Qatar's prime minister told delegates on Thursday to "get a move on" in a closed meeting in a Doha five-star hotel.
"The Qataris are not to going to let them leave here in failure after all this investment," said a diplomatic source on the sidelines of the Doha meetings.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week called for overhauling the opposition amid eroding faith in the SNC, saying there needed to be representation of those "on the frontlines and dying". Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron also signaled international pressure to unite the opposition.
What began in March 2011 as a protest movement for reforms following uprisings in Egypt andTunisia has spiraled into a civil war that has killed more than 32,000 people.
While the opposition argues, rebels have advanced, firing rockets at the presidential palace in Damascus this week.
Turkey said on Friday that 8,000 more refugees had fled across the frontier in the last 24 hours.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday it could not keep pace with the needs of civilians.