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Syrian Exile Group Elects New President

A handout picture released by the Syrian opposition-run Shaam News Network shows Syrians inspecting the damage following an air strike in Arbeen in the suburbs of Damascus on July 6, 2013.
The main Western-backed Syrian opposition group hopes it has filled a leadership vacuum by choosing a new president.

The Syrian National Coalition elected Ahmad al-Jarba Saturday during a meeting in Turkey. Jarba is a tribal leader with ties to both secular groups and Saudi Arabia.

The coalition has been leaderless since former President Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib announced his resignation in March, citing frustration over the group's inability to make progress.

Jarba's election comes as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continue to push back against rebel forces.

Activists Saturday said Assad's forces pounded away at rebel positions near the capital of Damascus. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported fresh clashes around the capital and renewed government shelling on rebel-held areas of the central city of Homs.

The Observatory says neighborhoods in Homs have faced continuous bombardment for several days.

The group says government air raids also targeted Reef Dimashq province Saturday, causing many injuries and reports of deaths.

Syria has been entangled in civil war since a peaceful uprising against President Assad two years ago escalated into an armed revolt following a violent government crackdown.

The United Nations says nearly 93,000 people have been confirmed killed in the conflict, but warns the actual figure is likely much higher.