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Divisions emerge at Syria opposition conference

November 5, 2012 • World News


Syrian regime opponent Mohiuddin Abdullah Alathighani attends the meeting of the General Assembly of the Syrian National Council in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. A plan to shake up Syria’s widely criticized opposition leadership and forge a more representative team has won the backing of several key countries, the proposal’s author said Sunday, even as other anti-regime groups pushed back against the idea. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Sharp disagreements arose Sunday on the first day of a Syrian opposition conference meant to forge a more cohesive leadership that the international community says is necessary before it will boost its support for those trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

The main opposition group in exile, the Syrian National Council, balked at a U.S.-backed plan that would largely sideline it to make room in a new leadership council for fighters and activists inside Syria. However, with international pressure mounting, the SNC also suggested it is willing to negotiate a compromise that would give the SNC more influence in a new leadership team.

The international community has long urged the SNC, widely seen as dysfunctional and out of touch, to broaden its base and include a greater spectrum of Syrian society, especially those fighting inside the country. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was unusually harsh, suggesting the SNC’s leadership days are over.

Failure to reach a deal in Doha could further heighten tensions between Syria’s political opposition and the international community. Opposition leaders feel abandoned by the U.S. and other foreign backers, saying they are not providing the money and weapons the rebels need to defeat Assad in a stalemated civil war. Washington and others say they can’t step up aid unless the opposition stops bickering and establishes a more representative — and unified — leadership.

The conflict erupted nearly 20 months ago as a peaceful uprising that escalated into a civil war and has claimed more than 36,000 lives, according to a tally by activists.

At the conference in Doha, the SNC will have to Login to read more

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