March 19, 2013
Syrian Opposition Elects Interim Prime Minister
The opposition Syrian National Coalition has chosen U.S.-educated former businessman Ghassan Hitto as provisional prime minister to administer the areas rebels have seized from Syrian government forces.
Shortly after being elected, the American-educated IT manager and Islamic activist outlined his plans at a news conference.
He said our top priority is to use all conceivable means to topple the Assad regime, and to provide basic necessities and services to provide dignified life to our people in Syria.
The new opposition prime minister is working on creating an interim government, which he says will operate inside rebel-controlled areas of Syria.
Hitto promised the new government would be committed to defending the diverse social fabric of Syria. He also is looking to the international community for official recognition as the legitimate authority for Syria.
"I call on the international community to live up to its responsibilities," he said, "starting with granting the interim government of its seat in the United Nations and other international organizations, whereby the interim government can take control of Syria's embassies."
More than 100 countries have recognized the opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, including the United States, Britain, France and Turkey.
Hitto also called for an unfreezing of Syrian assets, now blocked by a number of Western sanctions, and their transfer to the interim government.
Several opposition factions involved in actual fighting inside Syria are reported to have boycotted the vote that elected Hitto, criticizing him for lack of military experience.
But the head of the Free Syrian Army, General Salim Idris, said that force would respect the legitimacy of the new prime minister.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday reiterated his call for a political solution "while there is still time to prevent Syria's complete destruction."
Hitto was born in Damascus, the Syrian capital. Little known in Syria, Hitto has lived in the United States for more than two decades, most recently in Texas. He is a naturalized U.S. citizen.