WRAPUP 5-New Syria opposition seeks recognition; Israel fires from Golan

* Assad's divided foes forge new coalition, seek recognition

* Jets strike near Turkey; Israel, Syria trade fire in Golan

* Coalition's leader is reformist Muslim preacher

DOHA/CAIRO, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Syria's newly named

opposition leader, a soft-spoken cleric backed by Washington and

the Gulf Arab states, launched his quest on Monday for

international recognition of a government-in-waiting to topple

President Bashar al-Assad.

In a sign of the danger that the 20-month civil war could

spread across Syria's borders, Israeli forces said they fired

"direct hits" on Syrian artillery in response to a mortar strike

into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Western and Arab enemies of Assad hope the creation of a new

Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary

Forces can finally unify a fractious and ineffective opposition.

Mouaz Alkhatib, a former imam of a Damascus mosque, flew to

Cairo to seek the Arab League's blessing for the new assembly,

the day after he was unanimously elected to lead it. He made a

concerted effort to address the sectarian and ethnic acrimony

underlying 20 months of civil war that has killed 38,000 people.

"We demand freedom for every Sunni, Alawi, Ismaili,

Christian, Druze, Assyrian ... and rights for all parts of the

harmonious Syrian people," he said, calling on Syrian soldiers

to desert and all sects to unite.

His assembly was recognised by the six Sunni Muslim-ruled

kingdoms of the Gulf Cooperation Council as the "legitimate

representative of the Syrian people". Washington said it would

back it "as it charts a course toward the end of Assad's bloody

rule and the start of the peaceful, just, democratic future".

Shooting across the line that divides Syria from the

Israeli-occupied Golan was just the latest spillover of violence

that has alarmed neighbours including Turkey and Lebanon.

Israeli military sources said Israel hit Syrian army mobile

artillery on Monday, the second straight day it fired back in

retaliation for what it said were stray mortars hitting Golan.

"We will not allow our borders to be breached or our

citizens to be fired at," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

said. Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967.

Although the two countries have not fought over the territory

since 1973, they are still officially at war.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called on Israel and

Syria to halt firing.

In the north, where fighting has sent thousands of Syrian

refugees fleeing into Turkey, a Reuters correspondent saw Syrian

jets and helicopters bomb Ras al-Ain, a border town taken by

rebels last week. Bombs landed just metres from the frontier,

sending up plumes of black smoke.

Opposition groups said 12-16 people died in the air strikes.

Turkey said it did not appear that the planes had entered its

air space. It is discussing with NATO allies deploying Patriot

air defence missiles on the border.


Rebels and opposition politicians formed Alkhatib's new

opposition coalition after days of wrangling in Qatar under

intense U.S. and Qatari pressure.

Backers hope the new body will give rebels inside Syria more

clout and reassure religious and ethnic minorities, after a

Syrian National Council (SNC) made up mainly of exiled Islamists

proved ineffective as the main opposition voice.

Western and Arab opponents of Assad want the coalition to

attract support from minority sects who had been alienated from

the opposition by the prominence of well-organised Sunnis from

the Muslim Brotherhood. They also hope to rein in Islamist

fighters, some of whom they believe are linked to al Qaeda.

"Alkhatib is a dynamic, progressive Islamist, popular in

Damascus and the rest of Syria," said Mazen Adi, a prominent

Syrian human rights defender who worked with Alkhatib before the

revolt. "He is not a trigger-happy Jihadist, and he can play a

role in containing the extremist groups."

Alkhatib met Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby before the

gathering of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. European foreign

ministers are due to join them on Tuesday.

"The most important thing that could come out from

(Monday's) meeting is a form of recognition for the new Syrian

council alliance that was established in Doha," said one Arab

diplomat, speaking before the talks on condition of anonymity.

A League official said any recognition of the opposition

would probably avoid describing it as the sole legitimate

representative of the Syrian people, because some Arab states

were still reluctant to jettison Assad.

"There are still Arab states like Iraq and Lebanon that are

not fully supportive of the Syrian revolt," the official said,

also on condition he not be identified.

Alkhatib, in his early 50s, was jailed several times for

criticising Assad before fleeing into exile this year. He has

long promoted a liberal Islam tolerant of Syria's Christian,

Alawite and other minorities, activists say.

Hassan Hassan, a Syrian commentator based in the United Arab

Emirates, said Alkhatib, as an independent cleric, would be a

counterweight to growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"He's been active for a long time, campaigning against the

idea of retribution and extremism. He talks about liberty and

freedom for the masses. So he is perceived as a credible

figure," Hassan said.

Russia, which with China has foiled U.N. action on Syria and

views Assad's opponents as pawns of the West, urged the new body

to negotiate and to reject outside meddling.

Asked if China recognised the new coalition, Foreign

Ministry spokesman Hong Lei called on all parties to initiate "a

political transition process guided by the Syrian people".

It remains to be seen whether the Coalition can succeed

where the exiled SNC failed in overcoming mutual suspicion and

in-fighting that weakened the opposition.

"This is a significant step forward, because they finally

seem to be forging a more broadly-based platform that includes

the SNC but without the SNC taking the lion's share," said

Salman Shaikh, director of the Doha Brookings Center think tank.

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