New Syria opposition chief sets arms priority

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The new leader of Syria’s main opposition National Coalition has set his priority on securing arms for rebels fighting regime troops since 2011, in remarks published on Saturday.

Ahmad Assi Jarba spoke in Saudi Arabia after a meeting with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz on Thursday ahead of a tour of Western capitals next week during which he will meet French President Francois Hollande.

“My first and foremost priority is securing arms for the Free Syrian Army fighters as soon as possible,” Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat quoted him as saying.

“We are facing gangs that are launching a war of extinction against the Syrian people and arms are the only means of facing them and ending their massacres,” Jarba said.

“I also plan to work on securing aid to our people,” added the new opposition leader who was elected on July 6.

Jarba is a veteran secular dissident and seen as close to Saudi Arabia which has repeatedly urged the European Union to arm Syrian rebels.

He was previously in charge of trying to obtain weapons for the rebels despite Western skepticism of supplying arms to the opposition that could fall into the hands of Islamist radicals.

Jarba said the opposition supports ”a political solution that would achieve all the aims of the revolution while organizing the transfer of power peacefully.”

However, any settlement allowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or figures of his regime to remain in power is “completely unacceptable,” he told the daily.

Jarba was elected to replace Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, who resigned in protest at the world’s “inaction” over the conflict in Syria that is estimated to have killed up to 100,000 people since the March 2011 outbreak of an anti-regime uprising.

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