Syria opposition to discuss interim government next week

Syria's opposition National Coalition meets next week in Istanbul to discuss the formation of an interim government and the selection of its head, a spokesman said on Thursday.

Tuesday's meeting will focus on "the question of a government and its chief," said Walid al-Bunni, while stressing that the discussions were not expected to lead to the designation of an opposition prime minister.

Key opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun added: "It is not sure at all that there will be an election, but it will be discussed."

The opposition was due to meet in Istanbul last month to elect a premier for a government in rebel-held zones of Syria. but the meeting was postponed.

The delay came amid pressure from the United States and Russia, who insisted that a transitional government emerge from talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

On Wednesday, the Arab League said it is prepared to hand Syria's seat in the organisation to the opposition 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 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.

Syria was suspended from the 22-member pan-Arab organisation in late 2011, as the death toll from fighting increased.

The United Nations says more than 70,000 people have been killed since the conflict first erupted two years ago and one million people have become refugees.

The Coalition, led by Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, is recognised as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people by the Arab League, as well as several Western nations.