Head of Western-backed Syria rebel coalition quits

Military branch refuses to recognize new Prime Minister


BEIRUT  — The leader of the Western-based Syrian opposition coalition has resigned, citing frustrations with the body's ability to advance the fight against President Bashar Assad.

Mouaz al-Khatib said in a statement posted on his Facebook page Sunday that he would continue to serve the opposition's cause outside of the “the official institutions.”

Al-Khatib was president of the Syrian National Coalition, which was formed last year to serve as the opposition's official liaison with other countries and coordinate anti-Assad forces inside and outside of Syria.

Despite electing a new, U.S.-educated prime minister last week, the coalition has failed to establish itself as the top rebel authority in Syria, where hundreds of independent rebel brigades are fighting a civil war against Assad's forces.

The head of the Syrian opposition coalition's military branch has refused to recognize the body's new prime minister, saying he was not properly elected.

Louay Almokdad, aide to Gen. Salim Idris, told The Associated Press by phone today that the rebel Free Syrian Army would not recognize the U.S.-educated IT expert chosen last week to head a rebel interim government.

Almokdad said Ghassan Hitto was elected without the support of prominent Syrian opposition figures and that a recognized prime minister must have broad support.

Hitto received 35 out of 48 votes cast by the 63 active members of the opposition Syrian National Coalition last week.

Many prominent opposition figures boycotted the vote, saying Hitto was unknown and backed by outside powers like Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.