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Syria's opposition postpones meeting to form government

Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib speaks to the media after meeting with Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo February 11,
Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib speaks to the media after meeting with Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo February 11,

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syria's opposition has postponed a meeting to form a provisional government, in the latest setback to opposition efforts to create an administration to take over if President Bashar al-Assad is ousted, coalition sources said on Sunday.

The Syrian National Coalition meeting to elect a provisional prime minister, which was due to be held on March 12 after being postponed once already, has been rescheduled for March 20, but it was uncertain it would be held even then, the sources said.

"We cannot afford a split over this issue any more. The revolution was not born chaotic," said coalition member Kamal al-Labwani, a veteran opposition figure who spent nine years as a political prisoner after Assad took over from his father in 2000.

Labwani said the coalition was split in two over the merits of forming government, with some preferring to wait to see if U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi's efforts to form a transitional government as part of a political compromise succeed.

Other wanted to form a government immediately to pre-empt any deal that could see Assad remaining in power, Labwani said.

A second coalition source said that the meeting could go ahead on March 20 and that even if only a small number of members attended they could approve a government with a simple majority.

Osama al-Qadi, an economist who leads an opposition taskforce drawing up plans for post-conflict economic recovery, has emerged as front-runner for the post of prime minister after former Prime Minister Riad Hijab, the highest-ranking civilian defector from Assad's government, withdrew his candidacy.

Hijab had run into opposition from Islamists and liberals in the coalition over his former ties with Syria's ruling elite.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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