The main opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), under pressure to unite and bring in all parties, has elected a new leadership with Islamists heavily represented, SNC officials said on Thursday.
They said a president of the opposition coalition would be chosen on Friday, after the 40-member general secretariat was elected overnight at a meeting in the Qatari capital.
The secretariat is tasked with electing 11 members to appoint a successor to outgoing President Abdel Basset Sayda.
The process has been delayed until Friday to allow four members representing women and minorities to be added to the secretariat ahead of the vote, the officials said.
Sayda remains a secretariat member but other prominent figures such as his predecessor Burhan Ghalioun, George Sabra and Riad Seif do not figure in the new list, effectively ruling them out as SNC president.
Some 400 SNC members voted from 29 lists of groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ranging from liberals to the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as ethnic minorities and tribes.
Islamists, including at least five Muslim Brotherhood members, account for around a third of the new secretariat, with the Kurdish and Assyrian minorities also represented but no women.
"Under our statutes, we can add four members. So we will designate two women and two members representing the religious minorities," Ahmad Ramadan, a member of the new team, said.
SNC officials said a Christian and an Alawite, a member of the Shiite sect to which Assad belongs in Sunni-majority Syria, could thus be added to the team.
Meanwhile, Assad on Thursday rejected calls that he seek a safe exit, vowing he would "live in Syria and die in Syria" in an interview with Russian-backed international channel RT
"I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country," Assad, who is facing a nearly 20-month revolt against his rule, told the channel in English, according to transcripts posted on the state-backed Russian news channel's website.
"I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria," he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday floated the idea of granting Assad safe passage from the country, saying it "could be arranged" though he wanted the Syrian leader to face international justice.
Assad also warned against any foreign intervention would have global consequences and shake regional stability.