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Syrian refugees queue at the entrance of the UNHCR offices in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, yesterday. The number of Syrians who have fled their country has hit one million.
DOHA: A number of dissident Syrian ministers, members of parliament, ambassadors and senior government officials will gather at the Ritz-Carton Hotel today in their first conference to support the rebels.
The meeting aims to send a message to the world that the ouster of the Bashar Al Assad regime will not cause any power vacuum or leadership crisis in Syria.
Former Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab, who quit the Assad regime, is expected to deliver the opening speech at the meeting. The event is being supported by the opposition Syrian National Council.
Meanwhile, in Amman, coalition members said the SNC will meet in Istanbul next week to elect a provisional prime minister to run a political transition if Assad falls. The opposition wants to create a provisional government to administer rebel-held areas in Syria and to show it can fill a power vacuum left by collapsing state institutions, putting structures in place to curb chaos in a post-Assad era.
The Istanbul meeting on March 12 and 13 was called after Riad Hijab withdrew his candidacy, several coalition members said.
Hijab had run into opposition from Islamists and liberals in the coalition for his past ties with Syria’s ruling hierarchy.
“The field of candidates has been expanding since Hijab withdrew,” said one coalition member. The opposition had planned to meet on March 2, but postponed the talks partly because of Hijab’s withdrawal, he said.
Hijab said in a statement that he had informed the coalition’s president, Moaz Alkhatib, that he would not join the provisional government after talks in Cairo last month, but gave no reason.
Coalition sources said the SNC had chosen three candidates for prime minister. They are Salem Al Muslet, a tribal figure from northeastern Syria who worked at think-tanks in the Gulf; Osama Al Qadi, a US-educated economist who heads an opposition taskforce drawing up plans for post-conflict economic recovery; and veteran opposition campaigner Burhan Ghalioun, a professor from Homs and previous president of the Syrian National Council.
Asaad Mustafa, a former agriculture minister during the 30-year rule of Assad’s father, the late president Hafez Al Assad, is also in the running, the sources said.
The coalition, formed with Arab and Western backing in Qatar at the end of last year, is broadly comprised of three voting blocs, insiders say. The Muslim Brotherhood and its Syrian National Council and other allies can garner around 33 votes, short of the simple majority needed to elect their candidate as prime minister.