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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syria Opposition Group Elects New Leader

RIA Novosti

10:21 10/06/2012

MOSCOW, June 10 (RIA Novosti) - Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), has elected a Kurdish activist as its new leader at a meeting in Istanbul, al Jazeera television reported.

Abdel Basset Sayda succeeds Burhan Ghalioun, who had presided over the the exiled SNC since its inception in August last year.

Sieda, 56, was the sole candidate for the three-month presidency.

His main task was to "restructure" the council, Sayda told journalists after a meeting of 33 members of the SNC's general secretariat on Saturday.

Opposition activists argue Sayda's election might help encourage more Kurds, who make up about 10 percent of Syria's 21-million population, to join the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated on Saturday his country's opposition to foreign military intervention in Syria, saying it could lead to a "catastrophic scenario" which would have "the gravest of consequences" for the entire region.

Speaking at the foreign minsitry in Moscow, Lavrov also repeated calls for an international conference to implement a UN-brokered peace plan for the country.

Russia has come under international pressure to take harder line on embattled Assad regime.

Russia has denied that it is protecting Assad or that it has any special interests in Syria, but has twice - along with China - vetoed UN resolutions against Damascus over what it calls a pro-rebel bias.

Moscow has, however, fully backed UN and Arab league envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan, which calls for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from urban areas and a ceasefire to end 15-months of spiraling violence there.

The UN says over 9,000 people have died since the revolt against Assad's 11-year rule began last year.

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