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Last updated: March 24. 2013 11:29PM - 820 Views

In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 file photo, Syrian opposition coalition leader Mouaz al-Khatib speaks during a press conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Feb. 28, following an international conference on Syria at Villa Madama, Rome.
In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 file photo, Syrian opposition coalition leader Mouaz al-Khatib speaks during a press conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Feb. 28, following an international conference on Syria at Villa Madama, Rome.
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BEIRUT — Syria’s Western-backed opposition plunged into disarray on Sunday as its president resigned and its military leader refused to recognize a prime minister recently elected to lead an interim rebel government.


The chaos inside the opposition Syrian National Coalition threatened to undermine its bid to unite the forces battling President Bashar Assad and better organize the fight to oust his regime. It also could hamper support from the U.S. and other powers, who have hoped the Coalition would emerge as the most credible body to channel aid to anti-Assad groups inside Syria and undermine the Islamic extremists who dominate the fight on key fronts of the nation’s civil war.


As the opposition’s political leadership stumbled, rebel fighters inside Syria pressed ahead Sunday with their offensive in a restive southern province that borders Jordan. Also, Israel’s military said its forces in the occupied Golan Heights responded to fire across the border by shooting at a target inside Syria.


In his surprise resignation Sunday, Coalition president Mouaz al-Khatib expressed frustration with the both the international community and the opposition body itself. Al-Khatib, a respected preacher who has led the Coalition since its creation late last year, said in a statement posted on his Facebook page that he was making good on a vow to quit if certain undefined “red lines” were crossed.


“I am keeping my promise today and announcing my resignation from the National Coalition so that I can work with freedom that is not available inside the official institutions,” he said.


He also blamed world powers for providing what he deemed insufficient support for the rebel cause, and complained that many “international and regional parties” have insisted on pushing the opposition toward dialogue with the regime. Most opposition leaders and activists say Assad’s regime has killed too many people to be part of a solution to the conflict.


Despite electing a new, U.S.-educated prime minister to head a planned interim government last week, the Coalition has failed to establish itself as the top opposition authority on the ground in Syria, where hundreds of independent rebel brigades are fighting a civil war against Assad’s forces.


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