PARIS (Reuters) - Syria’s opposition has formed a military council to oversee and organise armed rebels within the country under a unified leadership, Syrian National Council (SNC) leader Burhan Ghalioun said on Thursday.
“The creation of the military council was agreed upon by all armed forces in Syria,” he told a news conference in Paris.
“We will be like a defence ministry.”
The SNC has been criticised by some Syrians for not overtly backing armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, which is being led by the Free Syrian Army, a motley collection of army deserters and civilians who have taken up arms.
The two bodies, the SNC and FSA, have at times appeared at odds on strategy, with the Council initially reluctant to endorse the FSA’s military response to a government crackdown.
There was no immediate comment from the FSA.
A statement released by the SNC said that the Council was formed due to the “rapid developments on the ground ... and with the need to strengthen the capacity of the Free Syrian Army”.
Ghalioun said the pro-democracy movement which started a year ago had remained peaceful for months but due to the violent government response it had had to create the military council.
A prominent academic, Ghalioun has been advocating democracy in Syria since the 1970s, when Assad’s father was in power. But after months of bloodshed and internal squabbling among the opposition his ability to lead has been called into question.
On Sunday, at least 20 prominent members of the 270-strong SNC formed a splinter organisation called the Syrian Patriotic Group. They complained the SNC had failed to secure satisfactory results or to listen to the demands of the rebels inside Syria.
Reporting by Nour Merza in Dubai and Oliver Holmes in Beirut; Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Alastair Macdonald