AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Sunday 9 December 2012
Last update 9 December 2012 3:23 am
BAGHDAD: More than 63,000 Syrian refugees have fled the bloody conflict in their home country for neighboring Iraq, according to figures released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees yesterday.
The intense fighting between forces loyal to Bashar Assad and fighters battling to overthrow him has sparked a huge exodus of Syrians to neighboring countries.
There were 63,496 Syrian refugees in Iraq as of Dec. 5, a weekly update released by the UN said.
Most of them — 54,550 — were in the three-province autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, while 8,852 were located in Anbar province in the west and 94 in other provinces.
Meanwhile, Syria’s new opposition coalition said yesterday they will announce the creation of a military council before a Friends of Syria meeting next week, to unify the ranks of fighters.
National Coalition Secretary General Mustafa Sabbagh said the group “will announce the creation of a supreme military council before the Friends of Syria meeting in Marrakesh” due to take place on Dec. 12. In mid-November opposition factions met in Qatar and agreed to set up the National Coalition and bring together rebel forces under a supreme military council, as well as establish a judicial commission for fighter areas.
“The council will be exclusively responsible for receiving military aid which we obtain,” from outside Syria, Sabbagh told AFP.
He also stressed that the military command will not include radical groups such as Al-Nusra Front which, along with other rebels who rejected the formation of the opposition National Coalition.
The Al-Nusra Front, which has become a formidable fighting force, has claimed the majority of suicide bombing attacks in Syria’s 21-month-old insurgency that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
“Setting up the supreme military council is an important initiative to unify military action,” said Sabbagh.
The council will comprise “commanders of the various military councils on the group and forces battling the regime, namely the Free Syrian Army,” he said on the sidelines of a regional security forum in Bahrain.
Morocco has said it will host next Wednesday the fourth round of a Friends of Syria meeting of nations that support the opposition.