Muaz al-Khatib ~ A new hope for Syria ?

Ahmad Muaz al-Khatib al-Hasani, Born in Damascus, 1960. Preacher and ex-Imam of the Grand Omayyad Mosque in Damascus is going to lead the opposition in Syria

A leading Damascus cleric who fled Syria has been chosen in Qatar on November 11th to head a new coalition to oppose President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Muaz al-Khatib, former Sunni Muslim imam of the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, is seen as a moderate.

Earlier, Syrian opposition groups agreed a deal to bring together their disparate factions. The fractious opposition has been under pressure from the US and other backers in the region to clinch a deal.

Sheikh Muaz al-Khatib, who is 52, left Damascus for Cairo in July after several periods of detention by the Syrian authorities.

As he signed the draft agreement that formed the opposition coalition with Syrian National Council head George Sabra, Mr al-Khatib called on the international community to “fulfil its pledges”, the AFP news agency reported.

Last month he called for a political solution to save Syria from further destruction, arguing that negotiation would not “rescue the regime” but enable its departure with the least harm possible.

He had earlier attempted to bring the conflict to an end and in an interview with Reuters news agency in July said: “I want the Syrian people to remain as one hand.”

Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni, a Muslim Brotherhood delegate at the Qatar talks, said the new body would be called the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

The group, formed after a week of talks in Doha, will have two vice-presidents – prominent dissident Riad Seif and leading secular activist Suhair al-Atassi.

BBC Beirut correspondent Jim Muir described the coalition’s leadership as a carefully balanced team that was set to become the face and voice of the Syrian opposition in the coming phase.

The Syrian National Council (SNC), which was formerly recognised as the main opposition, had been concerned it might be sidelined by the new opposition body.

The new body had been proposed by Mr Seif with the backing of the US, which had signalled its frustration with the SNC.

“We signed an agreement to create [a] coalition of 60 members of the Syrian opposition,” he said.

Delegates said the body would carry representation for ethnic Kurds, Christians, Alawites and women. Of the 60 places, 22 will be reserved for the SNC.

The new body will also have a military council that will include the Free Syrian Army.

The BBC’s Jim Muir, who was in Doha as the talks began last week, says the backers of the new body hope it will boost the mainstream of the Syrian opposition and sideline any extremist elements.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who was in Doha for the culmination of the talks, said there was “no excuse now” for the international community not to recognise the Syrian opposition.

video of Muaz al-Khatib (May 2012)

This video was published when Mr al-Khatib was detained by the regime. It shows you some of his main opinions.

Muaz al-Khatib

(Sources BBC, @haralddoornbos)

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