Main Syrian opposition elects new president

Ahmad Asi al-Jarba to take over Western-backed Syrian National Coalition from acting chief George Sabra.

The main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, Syrian National Coalition, has elected Ahmad Asi al-Jarba as president after a close run-off vote held in Turkey.

Al Jazeera’s Osman Kaytazoglu, reported from Istanbul, said on Saturday that al-Jarba, a former political prisoner, defeated businessman Mustafa Sabbagh.

The SNC said on its Twitter account that al-Jarba received 55 votes of the 114-member council, while Sabbagh managed 52 votes.

The council also elected three vice presidents, Farouk Tayfour, Salem Muslit and Suhair al-Atassi, while Badr Jamous was elected as the new Secretary General.

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said that SNC realised that it was losing credibility among Syrians who were suffering under heavy clashes in the country.

She said the new head of the coalition had three main challenges.

“He has to regain the trust of rebels and activists, struggle to control military council and different fighting groups in Syria and regain trust of international community,” our correspondent said.

The president’s post had been empty since April when former SNC President Mouaz al-Khatib resigned, citing frustration over what he called a lack of international support and constraints imposed on the body itself.

Since then, senior opposition figure George Sabra served as acting president of the SNC.

Members of the SNC will meet on Sunday to tackle key issues.

The Coalition is expected to approve the new cabinet. Incumbent Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto was tasked to form a government, but his prime ministership is also to be approved.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, prominent SNC member Luay Safi said, SNC was also to form a political committee, which would work like a policy-making body. 

“No Geneva talks on Sunday’s agenda,” Safi said.

Opposition criticised for Homs

Burhan Galyoun, a prominent figure of the opposition and former head of another Syrian opposition group, Syrian Council, criticised the Coalition for the failure to organise rebels in Syria.

He said Coalition was not doing enough to protect central city of Homs, where regime forces were advancing in rebel-held parts.

Galyoun said that an emergency meeting is to be held to plan to defend Homs and its people.

He also accused international community to be blamed for the civilian deaths in Syria.

Homs is a strategic city located between the capital Damascus and the Syrian coast, a stronghold for the Assad regime.

The city, considered the “capital of the revolution”, has paid an enormous human and material price for the uprising against Assad’s regime that began in March 2011 and has since evolved into full-fledged civil war.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies