November 6, 2012 5:51 pm

Concern at move to unite Syria rebels

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The leader of the Syrian National Council said on Tuesday that its role should remain key in any shake-up of the opposition, raising concerns for the viability of a US-backed initiative to bring Syria’s fractious opposition groups under a common leadership.

The SNC has been widely criticised for infighting and failing to connect with groups inside Syria, and the US has thrown its support behind plans put forward by SNC member Riad Seif to absorb the group into a new, more broad-based body. Opposition groups are due to discuss the plan in Doha on Thursday.

Abdulbasit Seyda, the SNC chief, told a gathering of the group ahead of Thursday’s meeting that they would go into the discussions with an open mind, but cautioned that “any action that targets the SNC, with or without realising it, will extend the life of the regime”.

Mr Seif’s initiative is thought to envisage only 15 seats for the SNC out of a 50-member council.

In Syria itself, a recent surge of violence continued in the capital with a lethal bomb blast in one area and an assassination in another.

At least 10 people were killed when an explosion hit the northwest district of al-Wuroud, state media said. Activists said there were multiple blasts. The area is reported to be near a barracks for the regime’s elite troops, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition group in the UK, said that the 10 people killed were all civilians.

Earlier in the day, Mohammed Osama Laham, brother of parliament speaker Jihad Laham, was killed in the Midan neighbourhood as he drove to work, state news reported.

The assassination came just days after a pro-regime actor was murdered. Mohammed Rafeh, a prominent actor who had spoken publicly in support of the regime, was buried on Monday.

According to the Observatory, he was assassinated by rebels, and activists claimed he was an informant. There have been several assassinations of figures associated with the regime in the capital, though many of these have been military or security officials.

Turkish state news, meanwhile, reported on Tuesday that seven generals had entered Turkey after defecting from the Syrian army. Dozens of generals are thought to have defected since the start of the uprising nearly 20 months ago.

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