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Syrian opposition PM rejects talks with Assad

Communications executive chosen to serve as interim prime minister calls Bashar Assad regime "oppressive" and "unjust".
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2013 22:13

Syria's opposition will not enter into dialogue with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the newly elected prime minister of the country's rebel-held areas said in his inaugural speech.

Speaking on Tuesday in the Turkish city of Istanbul, where the Syrian National Coalition met to hold the election, Ghassan Hitto, a communications executive, said the Syrian regime was "oppressive and unjust".

Those backing the regime were "on the wrong side of history," he said.

"No power in this world can dictate terms to our people. I repeat, 'No power in the world can dictate unacceptable terms on our people."

Hitto won the vote, receiving 35 out of 48 votes.

The vote came after about 14 hours of closed-door consultations among 63 coalition members, with some describing Hitto as a consensus candidate pleasing the opposition's Islamist and liberal factions.

In his Tuesday address, Hitto said there were "challenges" and that he would work hard to serve the Syrian people.

"We'll face the upcoming challenges together hand in hand to reinforce the greatness of the revolution and the great potential of the Syrian people. We also promise you that we'll channel all efforts to discharge this patriotic responsibility," said Hitto. 

Divisions still plague the SNC and some coalition members withdrew from the consultations before the vote could take place

When the voting finally took place, members placed their ballots in a transparent box in the conference hall where the much-awaited meeting took place.

"This is a transparent, democratic vote," said Coalition leader Mouaz al-Khatib.

Cabinet appointments

Hitto arrived in the conference hall minutes after the count, and was met with a round of applause as he shook hands with Coalition members.

"I give great thanks to the heroes and revolutionaries of the Syrian people. We are with you," said Hitto, who recently moved from Texas to Turkey to help co-ordinate aid to rebel-held areas.

When asked what the first priority of his interim government would be, he said: "We'll talk about that tomorrow."

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In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

"The new government is a servant of the great people of Syria," Hitto said in his Tuesday address.

The provisional prime minister is expected to appoint a cabinet over the next two to four weeks, Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith reported from Istanbul.

"One of the most significant appointments he'll have to make will be that of defence minister," Smith said, citing the challenge that the minister will face in unifying the armed opposition under the umbrella of the provisional government.

Coalition members hope the new government will unite the rebels fighting al-Assad's forces and provide services to Syrians living in rebel-held areas. Many have been battered by the country's civil war and suffer acute shortages of food, electricity and medical services.

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