Syria opposition expands, closes meeting



ISTANBUL- Syria's divided opposition group officially expanded early Friday to include 43 new members, after eight days of meetings marred by internal bickering and international pressure.
The total number of National Coalition members is now 114, acting chief George Sabra told reporters, adding that the general assembly was now finished.



Syria opposition expands, closes meeting
Among the new Coalition seats are "15 from the (rebel Free Syrian Army's) Chief of Staff, 14 members of the revolutionary movements inside Syria and 14 others", said Sabra.
He welcomed the FSA and the activist movements' entrance into the group, adding that "they are the guarantors of the revolution" against President Bashar al-Assad.
Twenty-nine of the group's seats have yet to be filled. The FSA's seats will go to civilian members of the rebel army, officials said.
Despite extending what was scheduled to be a three-day meeting, the group has failed to agree on a new president and an interim rebel government.
Though Sabra's interim mandate has expired, the election of a president has been postponed till "no later than June 12", said group spokesman Khaled al-Saleh.
The Coalition is recognised by dozens of states and organisations as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, but it suffers from deep divisions and conflicting international bids for influence that stall its progress.
Sabra said the group had agreed a "plan for the transitional period", but did not elaborate.
The group had also set up agricultural, education and health committees to try and mitigate the humanitarian crisis in Syria, he added.
The Coalition has already said it will not take part in a US-Russian peace initiative, dubbed Geneva 2, so long as key allies of the Assad regime, Iran and Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, are waging war alongside government forces.
Despite a marked diplomatic presence at the hotel hosting the Coalition's meeting, Sabra denied the group had been pressured into taking any decisions.
"No one can pressure us. Bashar al-Assad and (his father and predecessor) Hafez al-Assad before him, in their ugly dictatorships, were unable to pressure us," Sabra said.
"The Syrian revolution... does not accept any pressure," he added.
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Friday, May 31st 2013
AFP
           


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