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They also complained the group was dominated by Islamists, including the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

The Syrian opposition has been hobbled by disorganization and infighting since the popular revolt against Mr. Assad began in March 2012. Its international backers repeatedly have appealed for the movement to pull together and work as one unit. The SNC itself has been plagued by infighting, hampering efforts by Western and Arab nations to help the opposition.

Mr. Sieda is a secular member of Syria’s minority Kurd community. He is seen as a neutral, consensus figure and has said his priority would be to expand the council to include more opposition figures, particularly from Syria’s religious minorities.

“Our first mission is to continue with the restructuring of the council. We will also be working on establishing and strengthening relations with the other opposition parties,” he said.

His elevation to the post of SNC chief could be part of an attempt to appeal to Syria’s significant Kurdish minority, which has largely stayed on the sidelines of the uprising. The community is deeply suspicious that Sunni Arabs who dominate the opposition will be no more likely to provide them greater rights than what they have had under Mr. Assad’s regime.

“He is an academic. He’s also well-known, a moderate man. We shouldn’t claim that he has Islamic tendencies or secular tendencies. He has been approved and accepted by everyone,” Abdel Hamid Al Attassi, a member of the SNC, said of Mr. Sieda.