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Syrian rebel leader Idriss in Turkey, denies fleeing
Agence France Presse
Head of Free Syrian Army Selim Idriss speaks during a press conference at the Syria's opposition coalition meeting on March 18, 2013 in Istanbul. AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE
Head of Free Syrian Army Selim Idriss speaks during a press conference at the Syria's opposition coalition meeting on March 18, 2013 in Istanbul. AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE
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ISTANBUL: The top military commander of the Western-backed Syrian opposition is in Turkey for talks with rebels, a spokesman said Thursday, denying reports that he had fled Syria.

The Wall Street Journal reported that General Selim Idriss, the head of the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council, had been forced to flee after the rival Islamic Front overran key FSA bases near the border with Turkey.

But a spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition said Idriss was in Turkey holding talks with both FSA rebels and also the Islamic Front, which has emerged as the biggest Islamist rebel grouping in Syria.

"General Selim Idriss is in the south of Turkey on the border of Turkey and Syria," SNC spokesman Khaled Saleh told AFP in Istanbul.

The Islamic Front seized depots belonging to the Western-backed FSA near the Bab el-Hawa border crossing with Turkey at the weekend and then border post itself on Tuesday.

The advance prompted the United States and Britain to announce Wednesday the suspension of non-lethal aid to the moderate rebel forces in northern Syria.

Saleh dismissed the Wall Street Journal report that Idriss had flown to Qatar after fleeing to Turkey as "laughable".

"Yesterday (Wednesday) he was actually meeting with the Islamic Front," he said.

"General Idriss is still in contact with the FSA brigades that are on the ground, he's still in contact with the Islamic Front".

The Islamic Front was formed last month when six groups merged and pledged to work towards forming an Islamic state. It has rejected the authority of the FSA.

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