By Serene Assir (AFP) – GOOGLE NEWS
ISTANBUL — A Saudi-led bid to dilute the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence over Syria’s main opposition has thrown the group into disarray, dissidents said Saturday, with some even warning that the power tussle is “killing” the group.
Syria’s main opposition National Coalition has been meeting for three days in Istanbul. Among key items on its agenda was a debate on whether it should hold peace talks with the regime under a US-Russia mooted initiative dubbed Geneva 2.
But a bid by Saudi Arabia to weaken the Muslim Brotherhood and to hold sway over the Coalition has overshadowed the debate, dissidents said.
“You have Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pushing to include up to 30 new members in the National Coalition,” said one Coalition member on condition of anonymity.
“Their goal is to downsize the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence over the group,” he said.
“On the other hand you have Turkey, Qatar and to an extent France backing the Coalition as it stands,” he added, describing perceptions that Islamists control the Coalition as “exaggerated”.
Another Coalition member told AFP that Saudi Arabia and the United States have even threatened to cut off support if the opposition refused to admit the new members they were backing.
“We are being threatened that they will not give us any money or even weapons, and even that (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad will stay in power if we don’t allow this expansion.
“This is scandalous. This competition for power is killing the Syrian opposition,” he said on condition of anonymity.
The National Coalition is currently dominated by the Syrian National Council, in which the main political bloc is the Muslim Brotherhood.