BEIRUT

Middle East

Syrian rebel army chief slams new opposition group

Damaged buildings are seen in Deir Balaba, near Homs, July 31, 2012. REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout

CAIRO: The head of the rebel Free Syrian Army attacked on Wednesday the formation of a new political coalition outside Syria that plans to establish a transitional government, calling its leaders opportunists who seek to divide the opposition and benefit from the rebels' gains.

The Council for the Syrian Revolution was launched by a group of 70 exiled Syrian activists at a news conference in Cairo on Tuesday.

The emergence of new alliance marks the latest effort by Syria's divided opposition to forge a political alternative to President Bashar Assad, whose forces are trying to put down a 16-month armed uprising.

The Syrian military has stepped up a military campaign to drive rebels out of Aleppo, the country's biggest city, using helicopter gunships and other heavy weapons.

The politicians who formed the new coalition "were hit by a fever of ... acquiring positions which led them to announce the founding of a transitional government ... to ride over our revolution and trade with the blood of our martyrs," the head of the Free Syrian Army, Colonel Riad al-Asaad, told Al Arabiya news channel.

"But in reality they are trying to revive the falling regime of Assad by taking a decision without returning to the people who have shed blood and tears to achieve their independence from Assad's criminal gang," he added.

The announcement of plans to form a transitional government is mainly aimed at "pleasing the outside (world) while making the internal (groups) fight against one another to destroy the unity of the people which the Free Syrian Army stands for," Asaad said.

Asaad helped set up the rebel Free Syrian Army after deserting from Assad's military and taking refuge in Turkey last year.

The head of the new coalition, Haitham al-Maleh, said he would begin a dialogue with all members of the opposition, including the Free Syrian Army, about the formation of a transitional government.

"We will certainly have members from the free army in the new government," Maleh, a prominent member of the Syrian opposition, said at Tuesday's news conference.

Western and Arab states have for months been urging the Syrian opposition to unite. While the Syrian National Council has been an international voice for the opposition, activists on the ground have complained that the exiled leadership has little connection to what is happening in Syria.

Reacting to the formation of the new group, head of the Syrian National Council, Abdelbasset Seida, said: "The process of forming a transitional government is difficult and needs consultations with all members of the Syrian opposition, rebels and the Free Syrian Army."

"But if each group came out alone announcing the formation of a new government without talks and research, this would end up in having a series of weak governments that don't represent anyone and would not be able to mean or do anything," he told Reuters.

"Our end goal is to form a government that would represent and please all members of the Syrian community."

 

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