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Middle East

Syrian opposition meets to choose interim PM

Syrian National Coalition moves to create administration tasked with restoring public services in rebel-held areas.
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2013 16:13
The Syrian National Coalition cautioned that there is no guarantee the election will take place as scheduled [AFP]

Syria's opposition coalition has held talks in Istanbul on appointing their first prime minister, who would lead an interim government which would be based inside parts of Syria freed from the control of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The Coalition on Monday said there is no guarantee the election will take place as scheduled, with the process having been postponed before.

Out of the 12 candidates, opposition sources said former agriculture minister Asaad Mustapha, economist Osama Kadi, and communications executive Ghassan Hitto were frontrunners for the vote.

The Coalition agrees the premier and his government would have to be based in Syria’s rebel held areas, Khaled al-Saleh, a spokesman for the opposition bloc, told reporters.

"A Skype government is not going to work," he said. "I can say that around 60 out of 73 Coalition members wants a government to be formed," Saleh added.

Another Coalition member said there is a push for an interim prime minister who is a "technocrat".

Aleppo-born Kadi, founder of the Syrian Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Washington, is favoured for his technocratic background, as is Hitto, who has lived in the United States for decades.

Mustapha brings eight years of experience as a minister under Syria's former president Hafez al-Assad.

Several prominent opposition figures are not in the running, including Christian dissident Michel Kilo and former Syrian National Council chief Burhan Ghalioun.

The 73-member Coalition is expected to hold an initial vote, followed by a run-off between the top two candidates. The winner will then choose a cabinet, which must be approved by the Coalition.

The meeting is being held with the conflict - which has killed about 70,000 people and forced millions from their homes - now in its third year.

While it would boost the opposition's credibility, a rebel government would also reduce chances of dialogue with the Assad.

Al-Watan, a state-run newspaper, was quick to slam the move, branding the opposition group "delirious and confused".

"The coalition has proven again that it is disconnected from reality and developments on the ground," it added.

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