Syrian opposition elects moderate Islamist as prime minister

By REUTERS
September 14, 2013 23:53

ISTANBUL - The opposition Syrian National Coalition elected a moderate Islamist as provisional prime minister on Saturday, hoping to avoid being sidelined as world powers renew diplomatic efforts to end the civil war.

The SNC has long sought recognition as a government in exile, but has been hampered by internal divisions and varying pressures from its Arab and Western backers. The election of 48-year-old opposition campaigner Ahmad Tumeh is meant to show it can fulfil that role.

Coalition sources said the decision to proceed with naming a provisional government went ahead despite opposition from the United States, which hopes to convene, along with Russia, a peace conference in Geneva that could come up with a transitional administration.

That follows a deal between Russia and the United States over President Bashar Assad's chemical weapons arsenal that could lead to efforts towards a wider settlement of the two-and-a-half year conflict.

Tumeh said his priority would be restoring order to areas of Syria no longer controlled by Assad.


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