Syrian opposition National Coalition elects new president

Hadi al-Bahra, chief negotiator and secretary general of the political committee of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces takes part in a discussion entitled "Meet the Syria Opposition" at the New American Foundation in Wa
Hadi al-Bahra, chief negotiator and secretary general of the political committee of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces takes part in a discussion entitled "Meet the Syria Opposition" at the New American Foundation in Washington,DC on May 12, 2014. Syria's Western-backed opposition National Coalition elected Mr Hadi al-Bahra, chief negotiator at the Geneva peace talks, as its new president following a three-day meeting in Istanbul, the coalition said on Wednesday. -- PHOTO: AFP

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's Western-backed opposition National Coalition elected Mr Hadi al-Bahra, chief negotiator at the Geneva peace talks, as its new president following a three-day meeting in Istanbul, the coalition said on Wednesday.

Mr Bahra, a United States-trained industrial engineer, will replace Mr Ahmad Jarba, who has served the maximum two six-month terms. Like Mr Jarba, Mr Bahra has close ties to Saudi Arabia and has lived there. "Hadi al-Bahra wins coalition presidency by 62 votes," a post on the Coalition's Facebook page said on Wednesday.

While designated as the main body representing the opposition by the United States and other key powers, the National Coalition has little power inside Syria where disparate militant groups outside its control hold ground.

Infighting within the opposition coalition has also undermined rebel efforts to take on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, playing into the hands of rival, more hardline Islamist outfits that include foreign militants.

US- and Russian-sponsored talks to end the three-year-old civil war stalled after two rounds in January and February, when the coalition and Mr Assad's representatives failed to make substantive progress.