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Syria's opposition head resigns as fault lines emerge


The head of Syria's main opposition group has resigned after an apparent dispute over the election of a prime minister for rebel-held areas. Meanwhile the Free Syrian Army said it would not recognize the new premier.

Preacher Mouaz al-Khatib said on Sunday that he had no alternative other than to resign, claiming that the international community was doing too little to help the Syrian people.

"For the past two years, we have been slaughtered by an unprecedentedly vicious regime, while the world has looked on," Khatib said.

Al-Khatib steps down

"All the destruction of Syria's infrastructure, the detention of tens of thousands of people, the forced flight of hundreds of thousands and other forms of suffering have been insufficient for the international community to take a decision to allow the people to defend themselves," he added.

The resignation of al-Khatib came only days after the election of rebel Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto, who was understood to have been unhappy with the arrangements for an interim government, claiming that not enough preparatory work had been done beforehand.

"I had promised the great Syrian people and promised God that I would resign if matters reached some red lines," said al-Khatib in his statement.

Call for consensus

In a blow to the newly formed opposition government, the mainstream insurgent Free Syrian Army said it would not recognize Hitto as Prime Minister.

"With all due respect to Hitto, it is not possible for the FSA to recognize a prime minister who did not gather the consensus from all components of the Coalition," Muqdad said.

"We in the Free Syrian Army do not recognize Ghassan Hitto as prime minister because the [main opposition] National Coalition did not reach a consensus," a statement read.

Although Hitto was elected by 35 votes out of 49 by the coalition, the result only came after some 14 hours of debate, reported to have been heated at times. At least 12 coalition members said they had suspended their membership of the opposition body in protest of the result.

The conflict has split the world community with permanent UN Security Council members China and Russia, as well as Iran, largely backing al-Assad's regime. The US and EU recently began sending "non-lethal" weapons to arm the rebels. In the meantime, Britain and France have continued arguing in favor of arming the opposition fighters.

Amid complaints that Russia and Iran are still arming government troops, US Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Iraq to stop allowing Iranian flights believing to be carrying military equipment through its airspace.

Kerry, on a surprise visit to Baghdad, told Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that Washington was "watching what Iraq is doing." Tehran insists the airplanes are carrying humanitarian supplies.

rc/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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