Middle East

New Syrian group claims legitimacy to rival SNC

Nofal Al Dawalibi (L), son of former Syrian prime minister Maarouf Al Dawalibi, speaks to journalists before a news conference to unveil a Syrian interim government in Paris April 26, 2012. (REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen)

PARIS: The son of Syria's last democratically elected prime minister presented what he called an "interim government" on Thursday, saying it had the legitimacy that the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), lacked.

Nofal al Dawalibi, a Saudi-based businessman whose father Maarouf was prime minister before President Bashar al-Assad's family took power in the 1960s, said his Free Syrian Transitional National Government could unite the opposition in a way the SNC had failed to do.

"We are creating another option. The only option at the moment is the SNC, but there are a lot of people that want to help, who have no trust in this organisation," Dawalibi told Reuters in Paris where he launched the group publicly.

Most Western and Arab states have given diplomatic backing to the SNC - a group led mostly by opposition figures abroad who have been negotiating with foreign powers to support the revolt - while urging it to do more to appeal to Syria's minorities.

One Paris-based diplomat said the SNC was still deemed the main representation for Syrians and described Dawalibi's movement as "n o t significant".

Dawalibi said his group was more representative than the SNC which he said was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood and would form an unacceptable government.

"If we want to get rid of a minority regime that has governed for 50 years, we are not going to let another minority take power," Dawalibi told a news conference that included a Kurdish representative, a Syrian tribal representative and a member of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA). "Now you will hear about us."

Dawalibi said his group had spoken to French, U.S. and Gulf Arab officials, and had plenty of support in Syria.

"Legitimacy comes from the inside," Dawalibi said. "We have support from FSA generals, fighters in Syria, tribal systems and moderate Islamic schools," he said. "This government will be approved by those inside Syria."

Several FSA officers - Air Force General Fayez Amro, Captain Ammar al-Wawi, a former intelligence officer, and Colonel Khaled Hammoud - all appeared in a video pledging allegiance to the group.

The group wants air strikes, a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors, a slightly tougher line than the SNC. Western countries have been wary of calling for intervention similar to the military action that helped oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Dawalibi said his "government" comprised about 35 "ministers" inside Syria and that five or six members outside the country provided and coordinated financing, weapons, and humanitarian aid.

But the head of the FSA, Riad al-Asaad, declined to endorse the new group.

"We think the flourishing of political blocs that we are seeing is confusing t he situation. We're soldiers and we are only concerned with the military situation," Asaad said by telephone from Turkey.

Ahmed Alashquar, who identified himself as a member of the FSA and showed documentation in Arabic saying Asaad backed the group, said the general had been forced to distance himself from the new group under pressure from the SNC.

Abdel Baset Seda, a member of the SNC executive committee, said the new group would only serve to complicate matters. "This step is not well studied and will not lead to anything," he said in Cairo. (Additional reporting by Erika Solomon in Beirut and Ayman Samir in Cairo; Editing by Dominic Evans)





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