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Syria's rebels open talks on forging united political front

Syrian National Council leader Abdulbaset Sieda, center, speaks with opposition meeting attendees in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday.

Associated Press

Syrian National Council leader Abdulbaset Sieda, center, speaks with opposition meeting attendees in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syria's fractious opposition groups began negotiations in Qatar on Sunday to forge a more unified front in a bloody conflict that claims more than 100 lives a day.

Any attempt to restructure the opposition is unlikely to succeed — the last such meeting in Cairo in June ended in shouting and fistfights — but senior opposition figures tried to smooth over any differences in their initial remarks.

"The main aim is to expand the council to include more of the social and political components," said Abdulbaset Sieda, the current leader of the Syrian National Council.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said last week that the Syrian National Council had outlived its usefulness and should be replaced by a larger umbrella organization with more representation from inside Syria as well as from minority groups.

The council could be incorporated into that larger body, she said, but could no longer play a starring role in the exiled opposition.

Western powers hope to create a viable alternative to the government of President Bashar Assad.

While political bickering gathered steam, the fighting inside Syria continued apace.

A car bomb exploded in Damascus, wounding 11 people and causing serious damage to the headquarters building of the General Federation of Trade Unions, reported SANA, the country's official news agency.

The government blamed "terrorists" for the attack.

In clashes around Syria, three days of heavy fighting ended with rebel forces capturing the Al Ward oil field in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zour, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the conflict from abroad.

Syria's rebels open talks on forging united political front 11/04/12 [Last modified: Sunday, November 4, 2012 9:36pm]

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