Brotherhood denies seeking power grab

Brotherhood denies seeking power grab

Brotherhood denies seeking power grab

‘As far as I know, there is no extremism in Syria,’ Brotherhood leader says. AFP photo

The exiled leader of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood denied yesterday widespread accusations by other pro-rebel political factions that the group is seeking to impose its will on other members of the opposition.

“Our aim is not to tear apart but to unite the (Syrian) opposition,” Mohamamad Riad al-Shaqfa said at the news conference in Istanbul, where he is based. He blamed accusations against his group on “lies and fabrications” that he said were spread by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

“It is not true that extremists are in charge of liberated lands,” al-Shaqfa said. “The land ... belongs to a united front of the opposition.” Speaking in Arabic, he added: “As far as I know, there is no extremism in Syria.” Some rebels say that the Brotherhood is trying to control the uprising through exiled political groups like the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) marginalizing fighters inside the country from non-Islamist groups. They say the movement is positioning itself to take power once the war against al-Assad is won. Tensions within the opposition rose last month with the election of Ghassan Hitto as interim prime minister for the opposition. Some of his critics claimed the Muslim Brotherhood was behind his election.

‘We didn’t know Hitto’

Among those who regularly attack the Brotherhood are veteran secular dissidents such as Kamal Labwani, who accuses the group of using money to build allegiances on the ground in Syria. He and about a dozen other members of the coalition suspended their membership a day after it elected Hitto, complaining of the dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood in the council. “We say with all honesty that we didn’t know Ghassan Hitto before he was nominated for the post,” al-Shaqfa said.

Al-Shaqfa also denied that the Muslim Brotherhood is positioning itself to grab power should al-Assad’s regime fall. “These are all lies, slanderous statements against the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

“We are not after any gains and we do not seek power,” al-Shaqfa added.