Syrian rebel fighters scouting the central city of Homs, on July 2, 2013
A handout picture released by the opposition-run Shaam News Network on July 2, 2013 shows rebel fighters scouting the area in Syria's central city of Homs. Syria's main political opposition will attempt to nominate a new leader to unify a fractured coalition when members reconvene in Istanbul on July 4, an official said. AFP PHOTO / HO / SHAAM NEWS NETWORK == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / SHAAM NEWS NETWORK" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - AFP IS USING PICTURES FROM ALTERNATIVE SOURCES AS IT WAS NOT AUTHORISED TO COVER THIS EVENT, THEREFORE IT IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DIGITAL ALTERATIONS TO THE PICTURE'S EDITORIAL CONTENT, DATE AND LOCATION WHICH CANNOT BE INDEPENDENTLY VERIFIED == © - Shaam News/AFP
Syrian rebel fighters scouting the central city of Homs, on July 2, 2013
Last updated: July 4, 2013

Homs puts Syrian political solution at risk

Syria's main opposition said Thursday that the fall of the city of Homs to regime forces could scupper any hope of a political solution to the civil war.

The fall of rebel strongholds in Homs, a symbol of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, would make any talks with the regime unpalatable to too many Syrians, spokesman Khaled Saleh said.

"Homs could pose a risk to any political solution," he said at a meeting of the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul held to appoint a new leadership.

"If Homs falls, it will be very difficult for us to explain to the families of tens of thousands of dead Syrians why we negotiated with a regime that shows us day after day that it doesn't want a political solution and that it only wants to kill more Syrians."

The central city of Homs has paid an enormous human and material price for the uprising against Assad's regime that began in March 2011 and has since evolved into fully-fledged civil war.

Regime warplanes were bombing Homs Thursday as part of an assault by loyalist forces to recapture rebel-held neighbourhoods in Syria's third largest city.

Saleh's remarks will throw into further doubt a peace conference hosted by the United States and Russia dubbed "Geneva 2" due to take place later this year.

On Thursday, the coalition also began the process of selecting a new leader from five official candidates who include interim president Georges Sabra and the former president of the Syrian National Council (SNC) Burhan Ghalioun.

The liberal faction headed by veteran dissident Michel Kilo put forward Ahmad Assi Jarba as a candidate, and the secretary general of the coalition Mustafa al-Sabbagh and a spokesman, Louay Safi, will also stand.

Saleh emphasised the new leader would have to heal rifts in the fractured coalition.

"We are at a critical juncture in the revolution," he said. "The coalition knows it is important to respond to the challenges with which we are confronted."

Under pressure from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other regional powers, the opposition agreed at a previous meeting to accept new groups under the umbrella of the coalition, lessening the influence of a strong Muslim Brotherhood faction backed by Doha.

Syria's main opposition has faltered since the departure of Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib in May in protest at the world's "inaction" over Syria's civil war.

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