Syria's main opposition group picks Ahmad Assi Jarba, a tribal figure from Qamishli as new leader
Members of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition forces meet on July 4, in Istanbul. AFP photoSyria's main opposition group on July 6 elected Ahmad Assi Jarba to lead the movement which groups opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, spokesman Khaled Saleh said.
Jarba, who represents the faction of veteran secular dissident Michel Kilo, obtained 55 votes in the deeply divided Syrian National Coalition.
Born in 1969 in the northeastern city of Qamishli on the border with Turkey, Jarba is a tribal figure who has connections with Saudi Arabia. He edged out the businessman Mustafa al-Sabbagh, the group's secretary general and Qatar's point man in the opposition, who obtained 52 votes in the second round of balloting at the group's meeting in Istanbul, AFP reported.
The opposition had been rudderless since the departure in May of Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib in protest at the world's "inaction" over Syria's civil war.
"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."
The selection of a new chief had initially been mooted for the end of May but was postponed after eight days of talks were stalled by conflicting views on the future direction of the coalition and attempts by other countries in the region to influence the outcome.
During the vote, the 114 members of the coalition also elected three vice presidents - Suheir Atassi, Mohammed Farouk Tayfur and Salim Muslit.
Badr Jamous was voted secretary general of the umbrella organisation recognised by dozens of states and organisations as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Saleh said Jarba would not make a statement July 6 "due to the gravity of the situation in Homs," the central Syrian city which was suffering an eighth straight day of assault from Assad's troops.