Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (Photo: Reuters)
The government of President Bashar al-Assad is on its "last legs" and has lost control of several cities, the new opposition Syrian National Council leader, Abdel Basset Sayda, told AFP on Sunday.
"We are entering a sensitive phase. The regime is on its last legs," Sayda said a few hours after he was named as the new SNC president.
"The multiplying massacres and shellings show that it is struggling.
"According to reports, the regime has lost control of Damascus and other cities," he asserted. Fighting between regime troops and rebels has intensified recently in the capital, which remains the city most protected by regime forces.
Asked about his ambitions as SNC leader, Sayda said the opposition bloc "would focus its efforts on the international community to take a decisive move against the regime, which continues to carry out massacres."
"The Annan plan still exists but it has not been implemented. We will work for this plan to be included under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, to force the regime to implement it and to leave all options open" he said.
Chapter VII allows for sanctions and, in extreme cases, military action. Russia and China, infuriated by the NATO campaign in Libya last year, have vowed to oppose any military intervention.
"We want to strengthen links with activists on the ground and the Free Syrian Army, who we will support with all our means", he said.
Sayda's predecessor, Burhan Ghalioun, stepped down last month after being criticised for ignoring the Local Coordination Committees, which spearhead anti-government protests on the ground, and for giving the Muslim Brotherhood too large a role.
"There are great challenges ahead... We will work towards the restructuring of the SNC and the implementation of reforms," he said.
Sayda, who has lived in exile in Sweden for two decades, is seen as a consensus candidate capable of reconciling the rival factions within the SNC and of broadening its appeal among Syria's myriad of ethnic and confessional groups.
Sayda, 55, is not familiar to many Syrians but SNC officials say he is a "conciliatory" figure, "honest" and "independent".