Western-backed Syrian opposition names cabinet for rebel areas

Western-backed Syrian opposition names cabinet for rebel areas

ISTANBUL/AMMAN - The Syrian National Coalition named a provisional government for rebel-held areas on Tuesday, despite US misgivings, members of the fractious Western-backed opposition grouping said in Istanbul.

Washington and its European allies hope a proposed peace conference in Geneva will produce an interim government that can help end the armed conflict raging in Syria since 2011 - a scenario they fear the coalition's decision could disrupt.

"The United States is against the provisional government because it thinks it will undermine the Geneva talks," said an opposition official who was involved in naming the cabinet.

"The feeling in the coalition is that even if Geneva convenes it will be a long process and we cannot continue to leave the liberated areas prey to chaos in the meantime."

The coalition serves as a channel for Western support for the rebels, but its leaders are all outside Syria and their influence on disparate rebel factions is patchy at best.

According to the United Nations, some 40 per cent of Syria's population need humanitarian assistance. Polio has broken out and people in besieged areas may face malnutrition, but violence and red tape have obstructed aid efforts.

The opposition agreed on Monday to attend peace talks that Washington and Moscow are trying to convene in Geneva but said President Bashar al-Assad could play no part in Syria's future.

The coalition official said it would be hard for the interim government to move to Syria immediately due to the risk of attack from Assad's forces or al Qaeda-linked militants.

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