Moderate Syrian Cleric to Lead Opposition

Posted November 12th, 2012 at 5:45 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Syrian opposition groups have elected a moderate cleric, Maath al-Khatib, to lead a new coalition uniting the various factions fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Khatib is a former imam at the Umayyad mosque in Damascus and was imprisoned several times for criticizing Mr. Assad's rule before leaving Syria this year.

Opposition members also voted Sunday in Doha to elect businessman Riad Seif and well-known female activist Suhair al-Attasi as vice presidents.

Anti-Assad figures have struggled to achieve unity under pressure from U.S. diplomats and officials from Qatar.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement late Sunday that it looks forward to supporting the united opposition as it works “toward the end of Assad's bloody rule” and a peaceful, democratic future in Syria.

The agreement Sunday came after the group formerly seen as the main representative of the opposition, the Syrian National Council, heeded Arab and Western pressure to agree to a new structure embracing those who had been unwilling to join its ranks.

The opposition members say they will not engage in dialogue with Mr. Assad's government.

The violence in Syria continued Monday, with a Syrian fighter jet bombing a rebel-held town near the border with Turkey.

Video showed a large plume of smoke rising from the site in Ras al-Ayn. Rebels took control of the northeastern town last week.

Turkey has seen a surge in Syrian refugees, including 11,000 who crossed the border late last week to escape the fighting.

Syrian helicopters also attacked an area near Ras al-Ayn on Monday, while the opposition Local Coordination Committees reported shelling around the capital, Damascus.