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Syria

Syrian opposition group meets to choose prime minister

Syria's opposition coalition has opened a two day meeting in Istanbul to select their first prime minister to head an interim government. The prime minister will oversee rebel-held areas of the divided country.

Members of Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, began talks Monday in Istanbul to elect an interim prime minister.

Twelve candidates are in the running, including mostly exile-based technocrats, although two of the nominees live in the government-controlled areas of Syria.

A former agriculture minister, an economist and a communications executive lead the race.

Once elected, the rebel premier's first task will be to appoint a new government, based inside Syria, which must be approved by the Coalition.

The vote by 73 coalition members is expected to take place either Monday or Tuesday, however deep divisions within the Coalition have led to the vote being postponed several times.

The Coalition is recognized by dozens of countries and organizations as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people, however some believe a rebel government would have little chance of dialogue with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and further harden battle lines.

The meeting comes two years into a civil war that has left 70,000 people dead. The conflict erupted in 2011 initially as a largely peaceful uprising but then escalated into an armed insurgency and then into civil war.

The United Nations estimates at least four million people have been displaced during the conflict, including 1 million who have sought refuge in neighboring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, with thousands streaming over the borders daily.

hc/dr (AP, AFP)