The opposition Syrian National Council has accused the US of conniving to replace it, ahead of anti-Assad regime talks starting Sunday in Qatar. Despite a denial from the US, observers say a new grouping could emerge.
US State Department spokeswomen Victoria Nuland said while Washington had backed the Syrian National Council (SNC) for more than a year, it now wanted a more broadly-based opposition to the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Nuland said a leadership for a future Syria must include "not only the Sunni population, but the Alawis, the Druze, the Christians, the Kurds, any other minority groups, women."
"This is not a matter of the US dictating," Nuland said, adding that the SNC had struggled to establish its legitimacy as the voice of dissenters inside Syria and those in exile.
Seeds of division, says SNC
Meeting in Jordan's capital, Amman, the SNC accused Washington of "sowing the seeds of division." Among those present was former Syrian premier Riyad Hijab, who defected in August. Syrian activists say he has emerged as a consensus candidate to head a new opposition body.
So far, divisions between Islamists and secularists as well as between those inside Syria and opposition figures based abroad have thwarted prior attempts to forge a united opposition.
Another personality tipped to head a new body to be called the Syrian National Initiative is the long-time Syrian dissident Riad Sief. Sief told the news agency Reuters that "an alternative to the regime is dearly needed."
"We are talking about a temporary period that begins with forming a political leadership until a national assembly that represents all Syrians meets in Damascus, once Assad falls," he said.
Russia questions US motives
The Russian foreign ministry accused Washington of trying to resolve Syria's conflict "exclusively on their terms" in contradiction to agreements reached by world powers at a meeting in Geneva in June.
The wrangle was overshadowed on Friday by a video that appeared to show armed rebels in Syria executing ten soldiers.
In Geneva, a spokesman for Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the video seemed to show a war crime and warned that "accountability will follow" for those who commit atrocities.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says rebels have seized a strategic crossroads from troops in the Saraqeb, a junction 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Aleppo, Syria's embattled northern commercial hub.
On Friday, the observatory said, at least 139 people, including 44 civilians, were killed across Syria. It estimates that 36,000 people have lost their lives since the uprising against the rule of President Bashar Assad began in March 2011.
ipj/ch (Reuters, dpa, AFP)