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Abdelbaset Sieda told the Associated Press that the Syrian National Council is making “serious” preparations and consulting with other groups and rebels to form a government that could fill the leadership vacuum if Mr. Assad falls.

His comments came a day after French President Francoise Hollande called on the Syrian opposition to form a provisional government, saying France would recognize it.

But Mr. Hollande’s statement, believed to be the first of its kind, was quickly shot down by U.S. officials, who said it is premature to speak about a provisional government when Syria’s fractured opposition hasn’t even agreed yet on a transition plan.

Mr. Sieda admitted that no names have been discussed and an announcement is not imminent but insisted that various factions eventually would pull together.

From wire dispatches and staff reports