Jul 08 2013 - 09:20

Syrian opposition prime minister resigns

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Syrian opposition prime minister resigns
Lebanon News

Syria's opposition prime minister has resigned from the post, citing his inability to form an interim government.
Ghassan Hitto was appointed in March by the Western-backed Syrian National Council opposition group to head an interim government to administer areas seized by the rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad.
In a statement issued Monday, Hitto said he was stepping down "for the general good of the Syrian revolution."
Hitto is mistrusted by other opposition members who dislike his perceived proximity to the Qatari-backed Muslim Brotherhood. He had been effectively sidelined since his appointment.
Divisions among Syria's opposition have been a chief obstacle for many countries to provide more aid and military supplies to besieged rebels.

On Sunday, the new president of the opposition Syrian National Coalition said he expected advanced weapons supplied by Saudi Arabia to reach rebel fighters soon and change their military situation, which he described as weak.

Ahmad Jarba, who has close links to Saudi Arabia, told Reuters in the first interview since he was elected president of the coalition on Saturday that the opposition will not go to a proposed peace conference in Geneva sponsored by the United States and Russia unless its military position becomes strong.

Asked if shoulder-fired weapons that could blunt President Bashar al-Assad's massive advantage in armor would reach the rebels after Saudi Arabia took a lead role in supporting the opposition in recent weeks, Jarba said: "We are pushing in this direction."

Jarba offered Assad's forces a truce for the duration of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Tuesday, to stop fighting in the besieged city of Homs, where Sunni Muslim rebels face a ferocious ground and air onslaught by Hezbollah-backed troops and militias loyal to Assad.

Meanwhile Syrian TV said that President Bashar Assad's ruling Baath party elected a new regional command.

The state-run TV says the new command, which is the party's top decision-making body, was chosen during a meeting of the party's central committee.

The largely symbolic reshuffle came amid calls by party members to elect a younger command to replace its aging leaders.

The Baath party has been ruling Syrian since 1963.

The meeting was scheduled to take place earlier but was postponed because of the violence engulfing the country as the two-year uprising continues.

On the Field:
Reports said Assad's forces are now in an offensive to retake territory seized by rebels.

A Syrian official said that the army had recaptured the rebel-held district of Khaldiyeh in the central city of Homs.

A Syrian government official claimed that the army wrested a contested district of a key city from rebels on Monday after ten days of fierce fighting. But two activists based in the city denied the claim, saying rebels were under heavy fire but still holding on.

President Bashar Assad's forces have launched a major offensive to retake the strategic city of Homs, a transport hub that sits between the capital, Damascus, and coastal areas overwhelmingly loyal to the regime. Rebels seeking his ouster have held on to parts of the city they took over a year ago, but have been under siege.

The official, from Homs province, said troops took the Khaldiyeh district but were still "cleaning" out rebel-held pockets. He gave no other details and requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

A Khaldiyeh-based activist who gave his name as Abu Yasin however said government forces had not advanced beyond a series of buildings they seized earlier in the week.

He said forces loyal to Assad were trying to enter the areas of Bab Houd and Khaldiyeh by pummeling buildings with mortar fire to flush out the rebels.

Another Homs-based activist who gave his name only as Nedal said government troops were shelling heavily around a 12-century mosque in Khaldiyeh, indicating they were still battling for control.

The Khaled Ibn al-Walid mosque, famed for its nine domes and two minarets is an iconic part of the ancient city's skyline.

Homs, 140 kms (88 miles) north of Damascus, is situated at a strategic crossing linking the capital with army bases in coastal regions controlled by Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has dominated majority Sunni Syria since the 1960s.

The city also links Damascus and the coast with Hezbollah strongholds in neighboring Lebanon.


Russia said that remarks by the new leader of the opposition Syrian National Coalition have raised questions about his dedication to a political solution of the conflict, and urged the group to commit to attending a peace conference.
"The first statements by the new leader of the National Coalition ... raise a whole series of questions about its prospective actions and, most important, about its commitment to a political solution of the prolonged crisis in Syria," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.
"What is needed from the new leadership of the National Coalition is a clear and unequivocal expression of readiness to send representatives to the peace conference in Geneva," he said in a statement.

He added that Russia was open to establishing contacts with the opposition group's new leadership.
Russia and the United States announced on May 7 that they would try to bring Syrian government and opposition representatives together at a international conference to seek an end to a war that has killed more than 100,000 people since March 2011, but no date has been set.
Russia, which has given crucial diplomatic support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the conflict and says his exit from power must not be a precondition for peace talks, has suggested that the main obstacles to the conference are disunity and a lack of commitment among the opposition.

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