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Syria rebels fight on

26 May 2013, 11:25

Damascus - A meeting of Syria's fractured opposition headed into an unscheduled fourth day on Sunday, while on the ground rebels kept up their resistance to a Hezbollah-backed government assault on a strategic central town.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday pledged "victory" in Syria over the rebels and stressed it was in his militant anti-Israeli group's own interest to defend the Assad regime.

"I say to all the honourable people, to the mujahedeen, to the heroes: I have always promised you a victory and now I pledge to you a new one" in Syria, he said in a speech for the 13th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

As the fighting continues, the main opposition National Coalition has met in Istanbul for three days trying to overcome deep divisions over Russian and US proposals to convene a conference to which representatives of President Bashar al-Assad would be invited without any formal precondition for him to step down.

The opposition's longstanding position is that, after more than two years of devastating conflict which has killed more than 94 000 people, it will not negotiate until Assad agrees to leave.


Some within the Coalition said it should negotiate if talks lead to Assad's departure, while others have expressed reservations.

Delegates said efforts to reach an agreed position on the proposed conference were being delayed by pressure from some of the opposition's Gulf Arab backers for an overhaul of its membership that was being resisted by other governments.

A bid by oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia to weaken the Muslim Brotherhood and to hold sway over the Coalition has overshadowed the debate, dissidents said.

"You have Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pushing to include up to 30 new members in the National Coalition," a Coalition member said on condition of anonymity.

"Their goal is to downsize the Muslim Brotherhood's influence over the group," he added.

The National Coalition is currently dominated by the Syrian National Council, in which the main political bloc is the Muslim Brotherhood.

Delegates said the meeting, scheduled to end Saturday, was set to continue in a bid to reach agreement.

"I hope that we will have some good news tomorrow," Coalition spokesperson Khaled al-Saleh told reporters late on Saturday.


Tags syria war

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