Free Syrian Army Rejects New Syrian National Coalition PM

Rebel leaders do not believe Ghassan Hitto is right choice to lead the first government of the Syrian revolution; opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib resigned shortly after his appointment.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

The split in the Syrian opposition – and especially between the fighting forces and the political leadership - plumbed new depths Sunday when the Free Syrian Army announced that it does not recognize the anti-Assad coalition's choice of Ghassan Hitto as provisional prime minister.

The Free Syrian Army leaders, fighting against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, do not believe that Hitto, a U.S. citizen who spent most of his life in the U.S., is the right choice to lead the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces - the first government of the Syrian revolution.

Hitto, whose cabinet is supposed to govern rebel-held areas currently ruled by hundreds of brigades and emerging warlords, was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood and coalition Secretary General Mustafa Sabbagh, who has strong links with Qatar.

Shortly after Hitto's appointment, Moaz Alkhatib, head of Syria's main opposition group announced his resignation, saying that he would rather continue working freely for Syria without pressure from opposition factors and states with foreign interests. Alkhatib was picked to head the Western and Gulf-backed National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces in November after leaving Syria following persecution and several stays in jail.

"I had promised the great Syrian people and promised God that I would resign if matters reached some red lines," Alkhatib said in a statement on his official Facebook page, without explaining exactly what had prompted his resignation.

"Now I am fulfilling my promise and announcing my resignation from the National Coalition in order to be able to work with freedom that cannot be available within the official institutions," he said, adding that "all that has happened to the Syrian people – from destruction of infrastructure to the arrest of tens of thousands to the displacement of hundreds of thousands to other tragedies – is not enough for an international decision to allow the Syrian people to defend themselves.

Opposition sources said that Alkhatib was under severe pressure in recent months and did not succeed in forging agreements and lead steps against the regime, supported by Iran and Russia.

Arab League foreign ministers met today to prepare the Arab League summit next week, but could not agree as to who should represent Syria.

Meanwhile, fighting continued in Syria in what seems to has become a war of attrition. Rebel sources say that 91 people were killed in the skirmishes, most of them in a Damascus suburb. Syrian TV reported that dozens of rebels were killed, while the rebels reported that they had seized control of positions and strategic roadblocks, most between Damascus and the Golan Heights.

According to reports in the Arab press two combat soldiers were injured by Israeli fire, as Israel retaliated to a round of gunfire aimed at an Israel Defense Forces patrol unit. Still, the reports did not say if the two were army or rebel soldiers.

An image grab taken from a video made available by the Syrian National Coalition (Etilaf) on March 24, 2013 shows Ghassan Hitto (C), the prime minister of Syrian rebel-held territory.Credit: AFP

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