12:00 AM, November 11, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 11, 2012

Opposition elects leader but remains divided

Blasts kill 20 in Syria army base; thousands flee violence

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Afp, Damascus

Days of foreign-backed efforts to reorganise Syria's opposition gained a little till yesterday despite selecting a leader as fighting raged through out the country.
Opposition talks in the Qatari capital Doha were to see the Syrian National Council vying to keep its leading role in the face of US- and Arab-backed proposals to form a new government-in-waiting that could win deeper support.
The final talks among a wide range of dissident factions kicked off under a cloud of SNC reservations, with one senior official from the bloc saying an agreement was unlikely.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad meanwhile suffered a new blow, as two car bombs tore through an officers' club in the southern city of Daraa.
The blasts struck minutes apart in the back garden of the club, killing at least 20 soldiers and possibly many more, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a key watchdog, said.
In Doha, the SNC -- once regarded as the leading representative of the opposition but now derided in Washington as dominated by out-of-touch exiles -- was due to give its delayed response on Saturday to proposals for a new broader-based body.
The SNC had asked for two postponements while it elected its own new leadership amid strong resistance among some members to what they see as the group's sidelining in the new US-backed structure.
The group chose a Christian, George Sabra, as its new leader in a move seen as a response to criticism that Islamists play too dominant a role, but a major activist network inside Syria, the Local Coordination Committees, announced it was quitting the bloc in protest at its position on the unity talks.
The 10-member transitional government would be elected by a new 60-member umbrella group drawn from civilian activists and rebel fighters inside Syria as well as the exiles who have dominated the SNC.
Meanwhile, the UN said more than 11,000 Syrians had fled into neighbouring countries in 24 hours, including 9,000 into Turkey, bringing to more than 408,000 the number of registered Syrian refugees in the region.
Following Friday's exodus into Turkey, the United Nations warned that the total number of refugees from the conflict would likely hit 700,000 and that those in need of emergency aid in Syria would rise to more than four million early next year.

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