Syrian opposition coalition elects president

ISTANBUL Sat Jul 6, 2013 3:13pm BST

Syrian refugees hold a large Syrian opposition flag, with a length of 300 metres, to show their support for the Syrian opposition against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria June 30, 2013. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Syrian refugees hold a large Syrian opposition flag, with a length of 300 metres, to show their support for the Syrian opposition against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria June 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Muhammad Hamed

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The main Syrian opposition National Coalition elected Ahmad Jarba as its president on Saturday after a close runoff vote held in Istanbul, coalition members said.

Jarba is a tribal figure from the eastern province of Hasaka who has connections with Saudi Arabia. He defeated businessman Mustafa Sabbagh, Qatar's point man in the opposition.

"A change was needed," Adib Shishakly, a senior official in the coalition, told Reuters.

"The old leadership of the coalition had failed to offer the Syrian people anything substantial and was preoccupied with internal politics. Ahmad Jarba is willing to work with everybody."

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Alison Williams and Alistair Lyon)

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