DOHA, Qatar —The newly elected leader of Syria’s main opposition group slammed the international community for what he called inaction, saying Saturday that fighters are in desperate need of weapons to break the stalemate with President Bashar Assad’s forces.
George Sabra’s comments came as his Syrian National Council struggled with other opposition groups to try to forge a cohesive and more representative leadership as rebels step up attacks against regime forces.
Two suicide car bombers struck a military camp in the southern city of Daraa on Saturday, killing at least 20 government soldiers and prompting clashes in the area, activists said.
Bombings targeting state security institutions have become frequent in recent months, raising Western fears that extremists fighting with the rebels could gain influence. That’s one of the reasons the rebels’ foreign backers are wary of providing weapons.
The United States also has become increasingly frustrated with the opposition’s inability to overcome deep divisions and rivalries in order to present a single conduit for foreign support.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton harshly criticized the SNC late last month and called for a leadership that can rally wider support among activists fighting the regime on the ground.
Sabra, who was elected by the SNC on Friday, said the international community should support the opposition and send arms without conditions, rather than linking aid to an overhaul of the leadership.
The Syrian opposition may have many foreign friends, he said, “but unfortunately, we get nothing from them, except some statements, some encouragement.” The regime “has few friends, but these friends give the regime everything,” he added, referring to Assad allies Russia, China and Iran.
Sabra, 65, headed the SNC delegation Saturday in talks in the Qatari capital of Doha on a Western-backed proposal that would give the group only about one-third of 60 seats on a leadership panel to make room for more activists from inside Syria, including those fighting on the front lines.
The outcome of the talks will be crucial not just for the SNC, widely seen as out of touch with activists on the ground in Syria, but for the future of the entire opposition. Without unity among opposition groups, the international community is unlikely to step up aid.