BEIRUT — Syria’s mainstream insurgent Free Syrian Army does not recognize Ghassan Hitto, a rebel prime minister chosen by dissidents after hours of heated debate last week, a rebel official told AFP on Sunday. “We in the Free Syrian Army do not recognize Ghassan Hitto as prime minister because the (main opposition) National Coalition did not reach a consensus” at the March 18 vote, said FSA political and media coordinator Louay Muqdad. “I speak on behalf of the (rebel) military councils and the chief of staff when I say that we cannot recognize a prime minister who was forced on the National Coalition, rather than chosen by consensus,” Muqdad said. “We call on coalition members to make right what was wrong,” he added, without elaborating. Hitto won an election in Istanbul after 35 out of 49 Coalition members voted for him following some 14 hours of discussion in a closed meeting bringing together prominent opponents based both inside and out of Syria. But several key coalition members, including official spokesman Walid al-Bunni, walked out of the meeting and boycotted the vote.
And later at least 12 top coalition members announced they had suspended their membership in the opposition body in protest against an election result they viewed as illegitimate. Some dissidents in Istanbul said the Muslim Brotherhood, a powerful opposition bloc that is part of the coalition, had imposed Hitto as its candidate of choice in the election. “With all due respect to Hitto, it is not possible for the FSA to recognize a prime minister who did not gather the consensus from all components of the coalition,” said Muqdad.