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A rebel fighter takes cover as he looks back up at a warplane attacking rebel positions during heavy clashes between rebel fighters and the Syrian army. AP Photo/Narciso Contreras

Suicide attack hits central Syria

Meanwhile, Syria’s main opposition group has broadened its base in the country, voting to add more women members as well as activists and local council representatives.

SYRIA’S STATE-RUN news agency says a suicide attacker has detonated his car in a village in the central province of Hama, causing some deaths.

The agency says today’s blasts occurred outside a state-run development agency in the village of Ziyara.

The Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the suicide attacker targeted an army checkpoint and killed “tens of troops.”


Meanwhile, in other Syrian news, the main Syrian opposition bloc today broadened its ranks to include more activists and political groups from inside the country, officials said, in the face of intense US pressure to create a more representative and cohesive leadership that could work with the West.

The decision by the Syrian National Council appeared to be an attempt to deflect at least some of the international criticism that has labeled the group ineffective and incapable of forming a united front with other opposition forces.

Washington and other foreign backers say they can’t boost aid to Syrian rebels unless the opposition is united and represents more diverse groups within Syrian society, including those fighting on the ground in Syria. Many in the opposition feel abandoned by the international community and say they’re not getting the money and weapons they need to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The US has sharply criticised the SNC and is pushing for a major leadership shakeup. It is backing a plan to form a new 50-member leadership group in which the SNC would play a diminished role.

Today, activists reported clashes between rebels and regime troops backed by Palestinian fighters near the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk on the outskirts of Damascus. Syria’s half a million Palestinians initially tried to stay out of the conflict. In recent months, many started to support the uprising, while members of a small militant group backed by the regime are fighting alongside Assad’s forces.

Battle for control

With the battle for control of Syria almost certainly to be decided on the battlefield, the political opposition led by exiles like those in the SNC is being further sidelined, and critics say the group’s leaders are out of touch with those risking their lives in Syria.

Since the group’s founding a year ago, the US and others have urged the SNC to forge a more cohesive coalition with more representatives from inside Syria.

The SNC’s vote today to broaden its ranks, on the second day of a five-day SNC conference in Doha, was aimed at deflecting such criticism. A majority of 222 delegates voted to add several dozen more groups, nearly doubling the size of the SNC’s general assembly to some 420, said Anas Abdah, an organizer of the conference. The expansion added more women, activists from inside Syria and representatives of local councils, he said.

The SNC’s most crucial decision of the conference is whether to accept the US-backed plan that would have the group become part of a new opposition leadership team.

The plan, proposed by Riad Seif, a prominent Syrian dissident, is supported by the US, conference host Qatar and Turkey, among the most prominent backers of the Syrian uprising, according to SNC officials.

Seif’s plan would allot only 15 seats in the new leadership group to the SNC, and give wider representation to military commanders and local councils in Syria. The SNC has pushed back against the idea, but will only make a decision on Thursday.

Read: Syrian regime launches nationwide airstrikes>

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