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Middle East

Syrian opposition body elects new president

Hadi al-Bahra, chief negotiator at the Geneva peace talks, elected in Istanbul as head of the Syrian National Coalition.

Last updated: 09 Jul 2014 03:40
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Bahra was chief negotiator at the Geneva II peace talks which failed to make progress at the start of 2014 [EPA]

Syria's Western-backed opposition National Coalition has elected Hadi al-Bahra, chief negotiator at the Geneva peace talks, as its new president after a three-day meeting in Istanbul, the coalition said.

Bahra, a US-trained industrial engineer, will replace Ahmad Jarba, who has served the maximum two six-month terms.

Like Jarba, Bahra has close ties to Saudi Arabia and has lived there, the Reuters news agency reported.

"Hadi al-Bahra wins coalition presidency by 62 votes," a post on the Coalition's Facebook page said on Wednesday.

While designated as the main body representing the opposition by the US and other key powers, the National Coalition has little power inside Syria, where disparate armed groups outside its control hold ground.

Infighting within the opposition coalition has also undermined rebel efforts to take on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, playing into the hands of rival Sunni rebel groups that include foreign fighters.

US- and Russian-sponsored talks to end the three-year-old civil war stalled after two rounds in January and February, when the coalition and Assad's representatives failed to make substantive progress.

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