- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 28, 2012

BEIRUT (AP) — The head of the main Syrian opposition group seeking to oust President Bashar Assad criticized U.S. officials Tuesday for saying it was premature to speak about a transitional Syrian government.

The comments came on the same day a car bomb ripped through a Damascus suburb, killing 12 people, according to Syria’s official state news agency. Activists also said an airstrike in the town of Kfar Nabl in Idlib killed at least 13 people as fighting raged nationwide.

International diplomatic efforts have so far failed to stem the bloodshed. The leader of the Syrian National Council called on the United States and other allies to take decisive action instead of placing blame on the divided opposition.

Abdelbaset Sieda was responding to the U.S. reaction to French President Francois Hollande’s assertion that the Syrian opposition should form a provisional government and promise that France would recognize it.

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

The U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter, cited persistent disagreements among factions including the Syrian National Council, rival groups, opposition figures campaigning outside the country and rebels fighting the regime on the front line.

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 Assad falls.

“Yes there are differences within the Syrian opposition and this is normal in any country, but as long as we are agreed on a common vision, these differences can be overcome,” Sieda said in a telephone interview.

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

He said the U.S. comments show the international community is “not ready” to be decisive when it comes to Syria and is trying to put all blame on the opposition.

“The international community must make a move before it’s too late,” he added.

Syria’s opposition has been plagued by divisions and infighting since the start of the uprising last year, and forming a transitional government is fraught with difficulties.

In addition to the SNC, several other groups are known to be making similar plans, including a new alliance headed by veteran opposition figure Haitham Maleh.

Human rights groups say more than 20,000 people have been killed in Syria since the revolt against Assad began in March 2011.

Fighting persisted Tuesday in Aleppo — the nation’s largest city and commercial capital — as well as the southern province of Daraa and eastern and northern provinces of Deir el-Zour and Idlib.

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