World

Syrian Opposition Elects Interim Prime Minister

NPR | March 18, 2013 6:37 p.m.

Contributed By:

Krishnadev Calamur

Ghassan Hitto speaks to the press after being elected as the prime minister of the interim government of Syria's opposition, in Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday.

Ghassan Hitto speaks to the press after being elected as the prime minister of the interim government of Syria's opposition, in Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday.

Xinhua /Landov, Ma Yan

Syria’s main opposition has elected a new interim prime minister: He’s Ghassan Hitto, a naturalized U.S. citizen who until recently lived in Texas.

Here’s more from The New York Times:

“After a prolonged day of maneuvering and voting on Monday that lasted into the early-morning hours, representatives of the opposition coalition, meeting in Istanbul, chose Ghassan Hitto, 50, a former information technology executive, who emigrated from Syria many years ago and until recently had lived in Texas. Mr. Hitto was heavily involved in volunteer efforts to help Syrians whose lives had been upended by the uprising against Mr. Assad.”

Hitto received 35 votes; his closest rival, former Agriculture Minister Assad Mustafat got 32.

“I give great thanks to the heroes and revolutionaries of the Syrian people,” Hitto said after the results were announced. “We are with you.”

The comments were reported by Al-Jazeera.

According to his biography, Damascus, Syria-born Hitto received B.S. degrees in computer science and mathematics from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis in 1989; he received an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University in 1994.

For 11 years, Hitto worked with Inovar, an electronics firm, which he left in 2012 to move to Turkey to join the opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Hitto is married to Suzanne Hitto, a schoolteacher; they have four children.

Here’s more from Al Jazeera:

“Coalition members hope the new government will unite the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and provide services to Syrians living in rebel-held areas, many of which have been battered by the country’s civil war and suffer acute shortages of food, electricity and medical services.

“The new government faces huge challenges, starting with its ability to gain recognition from rebel factions on the ground.

“As rebels have progressed in northern and eastern Syria, a patchwork of rebel groups and local councils have sought to fill the gap left by the government’s withdrawal by organising security patrols, reopening bakeries and running courts and prisons. It is unclear if these groups, many of which have taken charge of their own towns, will accept an outside authority.”

Al Jazeera also reported that Hitto is expected to appoint a Cabinet in the next two to four weeks.

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