DOHA - Syria's splintered opposition factions prepared to begin talks in Qatar on Sunday on a common front to gain international respect and recognition and, crucially, better weapons for their quest to oust President Bashar Assad.

It was the first concerted attempt to meld opposition groups based abroad and align them with rebels fighting in Syria, to help end a 19-month-old conflict that has killed over 32,000 lives, devastated swathes of the major Arab country and threatens to widen into a regional sectarian conflagration.

Divisions between Islamists and secularists as well as between those inside Syria and opposition figures based abroad have thwarted prior attempts to forge a united opposition.

Four days of talks in the Qatari capital Doha are expected with the goal of expanding and broadening the Syrian National Council (SNC), the largest of the overseas-based opposition groups, from some 200 members to 400, SNC politicians said.

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