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Syrian opposition leaders renewed their efforts on Friday to form a provisional government to halt a slide into chaos in rebel-held areas, a day after insisting that any peace talks have to result in the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.
Almost two years after the national revolt against Assad broke out in southern Syria, the absence of a political leadership from swathes of land under rebel control has been a glaring weakness of Assad's foes, who have little control over Islamist brigades making advances on the ground.
"You have a situation developing where chaos reigns in liberated areas while, relatively, there is still fuel, electricity and basic services in the Assad-held regions," one diplomat in contact with the opposition said.
"If the situation persists like this popular support for the opposition will dwindle and they could lose the war," he added.
On the second day of meetings of the Syrian National Coalition, an umbrella group of political players in the opposition, members heard reports from members of a committee formed to help decide on the viability of a government and whether it could have enough financial and diplomatic support, according to sources at the meeting.
Opposition sources estimate several billion dollars is needed a month for a government to operate in rebel-held areas, mostly rural and desert regions estimated to comprise over half of Syrian territory.
The coalition's financial backing falls way short of that, the sources said, adding that Qatar, a main supporter of the revolt, this week pledged $100 million for humanitarian aid to be administered by the Assistance Coordination Unit, a non-partisan division of the coalition.
The opposition's failure to provide services, mounting reports of rebel indiscipline and looting in rebel-held areas have undermined public support for their cause.
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Meanwhile, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Friday that a devastating bomb blast in the Syrian capital was a "war crime" that had left about 100 people dead.
The toll given by Brahimi was grimly higher than the 61 dead given by Syrian activists after a suicide bomber staged the attack Thursday near the entrance to President Bashar al-Assad's ruling party offices.
Brahimi said he "strongly condemns the savage and horrible explosion in Damascus yesterday, which resulted in the killing of around 100 and the injuring of two hundred fifty civilians.
"Nothing could justify such horrible actions that amount to war crimes under international law," the UN-Arab League envoy added in a statement.
Brahimi called last month for the UN Security Council to set up an independent international investigation for "such crimes" in Syria.
Assad's government and the opposition have blamed the Damascus attack on "terrorists".
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