Syria opposition seen uniting after U.S., Qatari push

Reuters reports: 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.

Meanwhile, Reuters also reports: Thousands of Syrians fled their country on Friday in one of the biggest refugee exoduses of the 20 month war after rebels seized a border town.

Syria’s fractious opposition was meeting in Qatar, under increasing pressure from the United States and Qatar to unite and form a credible body capable of ruling the country effectively if President Bashar al-Assad falls.

The United Nations said 11,000 refugees had fled in 24 hours, most to Turkey. The exodus is testing the patience of Ankara, the most militarily capable of Syria’s neighbors and a strong opponent of Assad. Ankara has long said a full-blown refugee emergency would demand robust intervention.

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