Syrian opposition widens anti-Assad coalition with liberals

May 30, 2013 13:01

ISTANBUL - Syria's divided opposition, under heavy pressure to shake up its Islamist-dominated ranks, struck a deal on Thursday to present a more representative image to the world before a proposed international peace conference.

Delegates at talks in Istanbul agreed to admit a liberal bloc led by veteran figure Michel Kilo into the Syrian National Coalition, which acts as the civilian opposition leadership in the two-year conflict with the Damascus government.The deal followed seven days of marathon talks and required the intervention of Turkey as well as Western and Arab nations.

Opposition leaders are looking to allay widespread fears that the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad is being hijacked by hardline Islamists, who have been at the forefront of the armed insurgency.

Thursday's agreement marked the first stage in a process to choose new leaders for an coalition that has been rudderless since March and name a provisional government to strengthen what are now weak links with rebel units inside Syria.

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