Syrian opposition groups were thrashing out details on Sunday of a new structure to take forward their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad's rule as the exiles who have led it so far heeded Arab and Western calls to broaden their ranks.
On the ground fighting flared anew on the Syrian border with Turkey where deadly clashes between the Syrian army and rebels have triggered a mass exodus in recent days.
Reservations persisted in the ranks of the Syrian National Council, which had been regarded as the leading representative of the opposition but has been increasingly criticised as a talking shop for exiles, over what some members see as a move to sideline it.
But the bloc's leaders voiced confidence that a deal was near.
Syrian opposition fighters are pictured after fierce clashes with Syrian regime forces in Ras al-Ain on November 10. Syrian opposition groups were thrashing out details on Sunday of a new structure to take forward their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad's rule as the exiles who have led it so far heeded Arab and Western calls to broaden their ranks.
After marathon talks in Qatar that ran into the early hours of Sunday and resumed in early afternoon, SNC officials said they were set to sign an agreement on a new framework that would embrace opposition groups that have been unwilling to work within the existing format.
"We are going to ink an agreement on the formation of a coalition between the SNC and the other components of the opposition," said senior SNC official Ahmed Ramadan.
"The most important thing is that it's an agreement on the imperative of fighting for the overthrow of the regime and that is sets out clearly that there can be no dialogue" as long as Assad remains in power, he added.
Leading dissident Riad Seif, champion of the US-backed reforms being thrashed out at the Qatar-hosted talks, said a framework deal had been agreed and it was now only a matter of the details.
"We were on the point of signing but we preferred to give some time to study the internal rules at the request of certain parties," said Seif, a leader of the so-called Damascus Spring reform movement of a decade ago and now being canvassed in Washington as a potential new opposition chief.
The putative deal envisages the formation of a transitional government, a military council to oversee rebel groups on the ground and a judiciary to operate in rebel-held areas.
The government-in-waiting would be chosen by a new broader-based umbrella organisation embracing rebel fighters and civilian activists inside Syria as well as the exiles who have dominated the SNC.
Veteran Syrian dissident George Sabra, a Christian former communist, was elected president of the main opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council, at a meeting in Doha on Friday. Duration: 01:11
The talks' Qatari hosts, along with neighbouring Saudi Arabia, have been key backers of the Syrian opposition and both stand accused by Assad's government of funnelling arms to the rebels through Turkey.
Fighting flared again on the Turkish border before dawn on Sunday as Syrian troops and rebel fighters battled for the key northeastern frontier zone of Ras al-Ain, the Syrian Observatory for Human Right said.
Ras al-Ain is one of just two Turkish border crossings still controlled by the Syrian army. Rebels fighting to bring down Assad have captured four others while a seventh is controlled by Kurdish militia.
As the clashes raged in the mainly Kurdish town and thousands of refugees poured across the border into Turkey, Kurdish civilians backed by militia quietly took control of a string of towns in the region's Hasakeh province, leaving just two of its main cities under the control of Assad's government.
George Sabra, the new head of the main Syrian opposition bloc in exile, the Syrian National Council, speaks to reporters during a press conference on the sidelines of the General Assembly of the Syrian National Council meeting in Doha,on November 10. The group had been regarded as the leading representative of the opposition but has been increasingly criticised as a talking shop for exiles.
Local militia already control a swathe of territory around the mainly Kurdish town of Afrin in the northwest, under a similar arrangement that excludes Assad troops and rebel fighters alike, prompting accusations of collusion from the Arab-led opposition.
Violence also broke out on the Iraqi border, with government warplanes bombing rebel positions in the frontier town of Albu Kamal, scene of persistent fighting for several months.
At least two civilians were killed in the town, said the Observatory, which relies for its casualty tolls on a network of activists, lawyers and medics in civilian and military hospitals.
There was also renewed fighting for the main highway between Damascus and the northern metropolis of Aleppo where Assad troops have been battling to retain control since mid-July.
The army on Saturday retook a stretch of the strategic road in Idlib province but failed to regain control of the key highway town of Maaret al-Numan, the Observatory said.
The rebels' capture of Maaret al-Numan last month delivered a severe blow to the government's ability to reinforce its beleaguered troops in Aleppo and other key nothern battlefields on the border with Turkey.