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Terrorism & Security

US backs new Syrian opposition council in bid to unite rebels

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Syrian National Council could no longer be viewed as the 'visible leader of the opposition.' The group failed to attract broad support from Syrians. 

By Staff writer / November 1, 2012

Members of various Syrian opposition groups seen during a press conference after three-day meetings outside Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. About 150 members of the Syrian opposition met in Turkey for three days to plan for a post-Assad future, constitutional and legal reform, laws on elections and political parties and how to build a modern national army.

AP

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Europe Editor

Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor.  He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog.  He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced yesterday that a key opposition group could "no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition," as Washington attempts to reorganize Syria's various opposition groups into a more representative, more effective structure.

Voice of America reports that Ms. Clinton said that Syria needs a united opposition movement that includes all of the country's ethnic groups and better represents the rebel fighters on the ground opposing President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian National Council, which established its headquarters in Istanbul and is made up largely by exiles and expatriates, is no longer capable of providing the necessary leadership, she said while on an unrelated trip to the Balkans.

"We've made it clear that the SNC can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition," she said. "They can be part of a larger opposition. But that opposition must include people from inside Syria and others who have a legitimate voice that needs to be heard." ...

"This can not be an opposition represented by people who have many good attributes but have, in many instances, not been in Syria for 20, 30, 40 years," said Clinton. "There has to be a representation of those who are on the front lines fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom."

Foreign Policy's blog The Cable reported Tuesday that such a reshuffle of the opposition by the US has been in the works for months, as both the SNC and the US have grown increasingly frustrated with the other – the former at the dearth of support offered by Washington, the latter at the SNC's inability to attract broader support from Syrians, including Alawite and Kurdish minorities. The US hopes that a new council will coalesce at a meeting of dozens of Syrian leaders next week in Doha, Qatar

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