France says Syria's opposition must reunite

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Syria’s fractious opposition, further weakened by the shock weekend resignation of its leader, must reunite to prevent extremists from taking over, the French foreign minister said Monday.

Laurent Fabius also told Europe 1 radio that he was aware of a rumor that President Bashar al-Assad had been assassinated by an Iranian bodyguard but said that the information published on a website “has not been confirmed.”

Syrian opposition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib on Sunday announced his resignation from the National Coalition, saying he wanted to “work with a freedom that cannot possibly be had in an official institution.”

Neither the Coalition’s presidential office nor its general assembly has yet accepted Khatib’s resignation, the group said in a statement.

“If we want to prevent Syria from exploding and from extremists finally taking over, we have to find a political situation,” Fabius said.

“For that we have to find a rebalancing of the forces on the ground,” he said.

“The opposition has to reunite again,” Fabius said. “We want the opposition to stick to its reformist parameters and we absolutely do not want a drift towards extremism.”

The National Coalition is a dissident group recognized by dozens of states and organizations as legitimate representative of the Syrian people. It was set up in Doha in November.

Khatib’s surprise resignation came just days after the first election in Istanbul of a rebel prime minister, Ghassan Hitto, and just over two years after the outbreak of a popular revolt against Assad.

An opposition source in Doha, where the Arab League is to hold a summit on Tuesday, told AFP that Khatib accused “certain countries, notably Qatar, of wanting to control the opposition,” and of having imposed Hitto.