Prominent members of the Syrian National Council (SNC) have split from the group, in the most serious divide in the ranks of the Syrian opposition since the eruption of the uprising in March 2011.
At least 20 secular and Islamist figures from the 270-member council, established in Turkey in 2011, have joined the splinter organisation dubbed the Syrian Patriotic Group.
Ex-judge and lawyer Haytham Al-Maleh heads the group. He is known to have opposed the rule of the Assads from the beginning of the dynasty in 1970.
Opposition leader Kamal Al-Labwani - jailed for six years and released last December - also joined the new group, as well as human rights lawyer Catherine Al-Talli. Also joining the group are Fawaz Tallo and prominent dissident and former foreign affairs head in the SNC, Walid Al-Bunni.
A statement issued by the group said that "long and difficult months have passed since the creation of the Syrian National Council...without achieving satisfactory results or activating its executive offices or adopting the demands of revolutionaries inside Syria."
"It has become evident that the previous methods of work are ineffective, which is why we have decided to form a patriotic working group aiming to reinforce national efforts to bring down the Syrian regime with all available means of struggle, including giving support to the Free Syrian Army which bears the heaviest burden at this stage."
The statement was issued from Tunisia where SNC members attended the Friends of Syria conference. Fifty states attended the conference, which tried to push the Assad regime to stop its military crackdown on protesters.
The SNC is being subjected to increasing pressures inside Syria due to its lack of explicit support for the armed resistance led by the Free Syrian Army.
The SNC's secular chief Burhan Ghalioun has been endorsed as a leader of the council on a monthly basis. He is supported by Muslim Brotherhood members, a sizeable bulk in the council.
Many "neo-Islamists," considered more moderate than the Muslim Brotherhood, joined the Syrian Patriotic Group, among them preacher Emad Eddin Al-Rashid, jailed at the beginning of the uprising.