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Syrian opposition figure: Strife has hurt cause

Published August 29, 2012 2:28 pm

Internal divisions • A founding member said exiles hurt their case by infighting.
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Paris • A founding member of one of the main Syrian opposition groups explained her resignation Wednesday, saying the political exiles trying to drum up international support have hurt their own cause by failing to overcome months of internal divisions.

Bassma Kodmani, the Paris-based Syrian National Council spokeswoman, said she left the job in order to coordinate better with the rebel forces inside Syria and help in the humanitarian aid effort, which has grown considerably in recent weeks and drawn in nearly all of Syria's neighbors.

Kodmani would not elaborate on the internal divisions, but said she hoped and believed that the infighting would come to an end and the opposition groups would coalesce and make a united appeal for international help. Little tangible help has come from Europe or the U.S., despite their public support for Syrian President Bashar Assad's ouster, because many Western officials are reluctant to become entangled in an opposition power struggle.

"There is a need for a political authority for the Syrian revolution that can be legally recognized by the international community," Kodmani said.

She called her departure "a personal decision."

"It's a question of efficiency and coordination with groups on the ground, which have grown more numerous. My sense was it was not happening as needed."

In addition to the Syrian National Council, several other opposition groups are known to be making similar plans for a provisional government, including a new alliance headed by veteran opposition figure Haitham Maleh.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington had never considered the council the primary voice of Syria's opposition, although she did note that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had met several times with Kodmani.

"We've said from the beginning that we see them as a legitimate representative, but we never embraced them as the sole representative because the Syrians themselves had a number of other groups," Nuland said in Washington.

What the U.S. primarily wants is democracy for Syria, Nuland said: "That's job one as we see it. To ensure that we are all talking about a democratic Syria before they get to the point of picking leaders."