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Syrian opposition plans fall apart on eve of Doha conference

 

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Syrian opposition plans fall apart on eve of Doha conference

Posted on 29 November 2012 by "the witness"

By Ruth Sherlock, and Carol Malouf in Doha

7:44PM GMT 07 Nov 2012

Syrian opposition plans fall apart

Riad Seif withdrew after he lost his seat in the executive council of the main opposition, SNC Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP

The western-backed initiative to form a united Syrian opposition looked to have collapsed on Wednesday night, as key opposition movements from inside the country pulled out.

Syrian opposition groups were due to convene in the Qatari capital Doha on Thursday to appoint a new and supposedly more representative leadership. But on the eve of the conference three of the dissident bodies included in the US-backed initiative refused to attend, diplomats and opposition figures told the Daily Telegraph.

“There are too many people against this initiative for it to work now,” said a western diplomatic source in Doha.

The setback came as Turkey said it was in talks to deploy Nato-controlled Patriot missiles on its border with Syria to ward off the regime's cross-border threat.

Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, said Nato had a responsibility to protect all member states from external attack, including Turkey.

The plan's failure is a blow to Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, who had announced it unexpectedly a week ago, and to Britain, which had strongly favoured it.

The new leadership proposal included representatives from opposition groups outside the Syrian National Council, which was once seen as the most likely core of an interim government but has gradually lost favour both with the west and with rebels fighting inside the country.

On Wednesday night it seemed that representatives from the National Coordinating Committee, the Syrian Democratic Platform, and the Kurdish ethnic minority had rejected the plan.

“The components that were not in the SNC are not coming. The idea of a bigger coalition initiative has failed,” said Jamal al-Wa'ard, a military representative on the SNC.

Furious at being publicly sidelined, the Syrian National Council also voted against the proposal at its general convention on Wednesday and the member most prominent in backing it, Riad Seif, lost his seat on the group's executive council.

It had been informally named the ‘Seif-Ford initiative', indicating the coalition between U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, and Mr Seif in forming the plan. SNC members said they rejected Western efforts to impose a solution upon the Syrian people.

“Everyone feels that this initiative is imposed. They’ve weaved the cloth but now there is no one to wear it,” said Ahmed Zaidan, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Council, a body that coordinates with armed groups inside Syria.

In a meeting held late last night, SNC members reportedly interrogated Mr Seif on the initiative, and the list of names proposed to lead it. “We asked him why some of the names were on the list and he said he didn’t know. The West pushed this on him. How can you endorse a plan when you can’t defend it?” said an SNC member who was present at the meetings.

Countries sympathetic to the Syrian opposition, including Britain, France and the United States, had said they would recognise the new appointed body as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, and provide financial, and many believed, military support.

But following meetings with Mr Ford opposition members said the expectations far exceeded the reality.

The Americans have said there are no weapons or military support on the table. They would give money but it would be much less than expected, maybe a few million and even that is not promised,” Mr al-Wa'ard said.

The opposition meeting will go ahead, but any leadership body is likely to have a majority from the Syrian National Council, a body with little influence on the ground. "It may secure more funding but at this point in the Syrian war it not about how much money you pump into this, it is about winning the support of the street to regain control. And the street does not support them,” said a western diplomatic source.

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