Opposition in bid to form rival Assad government

Syria’s main opposition coalition began a push yesterday to form an interim government to provide services to people living in parts of the country now controlled by rebel forces.

The effort is the most serious yet by the forces opposing President Bashar al-Assad to establish a rival administration and bring together all the factions working to topple his government.

Two previous attempts to form an interim government failed because of divisions within the group, the Syrian National Coalition. Some members said before the meeting in Istanbul yesterday that it was unclear whether they would agree this time. Many have also complained of insufficient international support.

But many said members feel a new sense of urgency, as the amount of territory under rebel control has expanded.

“What delayed this before was that there was no agreement on the importance of forming a government,” said Burhan Ghalioun, a coalition member and former head of the Syrian National Council. “Now people are convinced that a government is necessary.”

But in a stance that could frustrate their Western supporters, coalition members dismissed any possibility of negotiating with the current regime and insisted they will talk only when Assad has left power. Many believe the only way to accomplish this is through continued advances by rebel forces.

“There has to be a military victory on the ground to convince the regime or some elements in the regime” of the need for change, Ghalioun said.

“The solution is not an end to the violence. This is linked to pushing the regime toward steps to a democratic system.”

Twelve candidates have been nominated for prime minister, and will be elected by the coalition’s 73 members. A vote is expected today.

Some members suggested that if they could not agree, they could create a collective leadership in the form of an executive commission.

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