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Arab League readies to hand Syria seat to opposition

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Arab League said on Wednesday it is prepared to hand Syria's seat in the organisation to the opposition battling to oust President Bashar al-Assad if it sets up an executive body.

The League, in a resolution adopted at a meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo, called for the opposition National Coalition "to form an executive body to take up Syria's seat" and attend its next summit, in Doha on March 26-27.

The umbrella group would retain Syria's seat in the 22-member organisation "until elections leading to the formation of a government to assume the responsibilities of power in Syria," it said.

The call was based on "the sacrifices of the Syrian people and the exceptional circumstances" in the country.

Iraq and Algeria expressed reservations while Lebanon declined to be associated with the resolution, League chief Nabil al-Arabi told a news conference.

Instead, Lebanon urged foreign ministers to allow the Syrian government to retake its seat at the League, from which it was suspended in late 2011, as the organisation had failed to resolve the two-year conflict in Syria.

Last year, with the death toll escalating in the anti-Assad revolt, the League recognised the National Coalition led by Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib as the "legitimate representative and main interlocutor with the Arab League."

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict since March 2011, according to the United Nations, which on Wednesday put the number of Syrian refugees at one million.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130306/arab-league-readies-hand-syria-seat-opposition