Cleric Ahmed al-Khatib Elected Head of New Opposition Bloc as Syria Dissidents Strike Unity Deal

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Syrian opposition factions which agreed on Sunday in Qatar to form a new coalition to fight President Bashar Assad have elected cleric Ahmed al-Khatib to head the bloc, dissidents said.

Khatib, a moderate originally from Damascus who quit Syria three months ago, will lead the National Coalition of Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition, formed after the Syrian National Council agreed to the new group.

Prominent dissident Riad Seif, who had tabled an initiative to unite the opposition, and female opponent Suhair al-Atassi, were elected as two vice presidents of the coalition.

The SNC had come under intense Arab and Western pressure to accept the unity plan amid growing frustration among other dissident groups.

The inked agreement stipulates that the bloc will be open to all factions, and will form a provisional government after gaining international recognition.

It will also support the unification of the revolutionary military councils, and will work for the fall of the regime and to dismantle the security organs

Former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab who defected in August hailed the agreement as "an advanced step towards toppling the regime."

Participants in marathon talks in Qatar said the latest were centered on details of a planned new government-in-waiting, but that the Syrian National Council had now heeded Arab and Western calls to join a new, wider coalition.

Reservations in SNC ranks about what many members saw as a move to sideline it had prompted repeated delays in the Doha talks and mounting frustration among other dissident groups and the opposition's Arab and Western supporters.

But after negotiations that ran into the early hours of Sunday and resumed in the afternoon, opposition officials said a deal on forming a National Coalition of opposition forces had finally been done.

"We signed a 12-point agreement to establish a coalition," said leading dissident Riad Seif, who drew up the U.S.-backed reform proposals on which Sunday's agreement was based.

Another prominent opposition figure, Haitham al-Maleh, said a formal signing ceremony would held at 1700 GMT.

In a copy of the document obtained by Agence France Presse, the parties "agree to work for the fall of the regime and of all its symbols and pillars," and rule out any dialogue with the regime.

They agree to unify the fighting forces under a supreme military council and to set up a national judicial commission for rebel-held areas.

A provisional government would be formed after the coalition gains international recognition, and a transitional government formed after the regime has fallen.

The deal came after the SNC, which had formerly been seen as the main representative of the opposition, heeded Arab and Western pressure to agree to a new structure embracing groups that had been unwilling to join its ranks.

Former prime minister Riad Hijab, who fled to neighboring Jordan in August in the highest-ranking defection from Assad's government, hailed the agreement as "an advanced step towards toppling the regime."

There had been mounting diplomatic pressure on the opposition for an overhaul amid U.S.-led accusations the SNC had lost touch with civilian activists and rebels inside Syria and become little more than a talking shop for exiles.

Below are the main points of the unity deal inked in Doha:

- The Syrian National Council (SNC) and other opposition factions present at the Doha meeting agreed to form a "National Coalition of Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition," open to all factions, with the statutes of the coalition defining the representation of each of its components.

- The parties agree to work for the fall of the regime and of all its symbols and pillars, and to dismantle the security organs by prosecuting all those implicated in crimes against Syrians.

- The coalition is committed not to take part in any dialogue or negotiations with the regime.

- The coalition has its statutes, to be signed after discussions and adopted.

- The coalition supports the unification of the revolutionary military councils under the leadership of a supreme military council.

- It has a national judicial commission... and technical and specialized commissions.

- It will form a provisional government after gaining international recognition.

- It will call a national general congress once the regime falls.

- The coalition and the provisional government will be dissolved by the coalition after the national general congress and the formation of a transitional government.

- This accord will not come into force until it has been ratified by the relevant bodies of each of the contracting parties.

- The Arab ministerial committee on Syria will submit this accord to the Arab League general secretariat.

Comments 6
Thumb benzona 11 November 2012, 08:01

That's the way forward!

Thumb lebnanfirst 11 November 2012, 08:35

The SNC proved useful up till now. Now the time has come for a more inclusive Syrian opposition entity capable of giving birth to a new government. Syria's endgame stage has been reached and Assad's days in power are fast approaching their end.

The birth of the new Syria is beginning which will also usher in the salvation of Lebanon.

Thumb marc 11 November 2012, 15:15

About time they have a unified national movement that push Assad and company out

Missing people-power 11 November 2012, 17:03

Soon other countries will recognize the oppostion as the offiial government of Syria. This will set the stage for overt and abundant arming of the rebels with heavy arms, and establishment of "no fly zones". The clock is ticking Bashar, better get out while you can

Missing realist 11 November 2012, 23:59

good news, 2013 is the end of the assad regime, and the hizbustanis need to re-adjust, and recalculate before they turn lebanon to another syria with their arrogance.

Thumb lebnanfirst 12 November 2012, 01:05

What are you getting at karim_m1? Are you insinuating that they ditched the "Christians" in order to inflame emotions and prove that your traitor general is the answer?
Pathetic attempt to make such a suggestion when Syria is a Moslem majority country with an 80% Sunni population. Stop trying to insight against the Sunnis just because you believe HA will always protect your ass. If you and your general stop for a moment to think clearly you will come to the conclusion that when HA and Iran decide to strike a deal they will sell the FPM in a NY second without batting an eye.
Wake up before it is too late.