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Middle East

Syrian fighters join forces against al-Assad

Rebel fighters agree on a united command in bid to integrate diverse groups and enable easier supply of arms.
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2012 08:21
About 500 delegates have elected a 30-person Supreme Military Council and a Chief of Staff [GALLO/GETTY]

Syria's rebel leaders have agreed to come under a united command in a bid to integrate diverse fighting groups and streamline the route for arms essential to their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad.

The new body, expected to be announced officially on Sunday, hopes to form the basis of a united rebel front.

About 500 delegates elected the 30-person Supreme Military Council and a Chief of Staff on Friday in Turkish resort of Antalya and planned to meet soon with representatives from the opposition's newly re-organised political leadership, participants said.

"The aim of this meeting was to unify the armed opposition to bring down the regime," said a rebel commander from  Damascus who attended the meeting. "It also aims to get the situation under control once the regime falls."

The move toward greater unity on the armed front comes as the US and others try to strengthen the opposition's leadership while sidelining extremist factions that have become a vital part of the rebels' ground forces.

The US is expected to recognise it at an international "Friends of Syria" conference in Marakesh, Morocco, that begins on Wednesday.

A majority of the brigades that have taken up arms veer towards a radical Islamist outlook, some have boasted about executing captured soldiers.

Lack of cohesion

Two of the most extreme rebel groups involved, were not invited to the meeting in Turkey or included in the new council. Such a move could possibly encourage Western support.

A lack of cohesion has plagued Syria's rebel movement since its inception late last year. The base of what became the Free Syrian Army was formed after some protesters gave up on peaceful means to bring down al-Assad's regime and took up arms.

The groups have surged across the nation with many failing to co-ordinate without any bodies outside their respective areas.

While some say they want a civil, democratic government, others advocate an Islamic state.

The opposition's political leadership met in Doha, the Qatari capital, last month to re-organise themselves after giving in to  Western pressure.

It is hoped that the backers of the new National Alliance hope will have broader representation and stronger links to rebel fighters.

Britain, France, Turkey and several Gulf Arab nations have recognised the National Alliance, effectively considering it a government in exile.

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Source:
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