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Syria Opposition Seeks Deal on PM-in-Exile
[An Nahar] Syria's opposition umbrella group met Sunday in a bid to name a prime minister-in-exile, a day after the Damascus
...The capital of Iran's Syrian satrapy...
government ruled out any calls for the ouster of Bashir al-Assad.

The diplomatic face-off came as a couple and their three children were killed in regime air strikes on a village in Damascus province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The National Coalition, recognized by many Western and Arab powers as the sole representative of the Syrian people, met in Istanbul to discuss the formation of a government-in-exile and who would eventually head it, an opposition official said.

"A proposal was made to name Riad Hijab but it has run into much criticism," the official told Agence La Belle France Presse on condition of anonymity.

He said talks held behind closed doors would continue into the evening and resume Monday in Istanbul, and that the meeting would also prepare for an opposition forum in Gay Paree on January 28 attended by Friends of Syria nations.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed the meeting in a radio interview.

Former prime minister Hijab is the highest-ranking official to have defected, crossing the border to Jordan in August and joining the opposition. He has worked closely with Turkish leaders to help restructure the fragmented Syrian opposition.

Subdued and short on charisma, the 46-year-old Sunni Moslem holds a doctorate in agricultural engineering, but owes his steep ascent in Syria's ruling party to his unwavering loyalty to Assad and the ruling Baath Party.

The opposition bloc has called for the establishment of an interim government with full executive powers in rebel-held areas inside Syria.

But Foreign Minister Walid Muallem struck a defiant tone late Saturday telling state television
... and if you can't believe state television who can you believe?
that those who demand the Assad removal want only bloodshed in the country.

"Nobody can afford to undermine the presidency -- it is unacceptable," Muallem said.

"The U.S. continues to have the president's departure as a condition of regime change, ignoring the fact that the captain of a capsized ship does not jump into the first boat," he added.
Posted by:Fred