DOHA- “Arab Foreign Ministers will decide on the issue of the seat” during a preparatory meeting in Doha on Sunday, an Arab League official told AFP news agency.
The Arab League is mulling over a decision to allow Syria’s seat to the country’s official opposition bloc, ahead of a meeting in Qatar on Tuesday. Previously the League had said only that the Syrian political opposition and rebels should be supported by humanitarian and diplomatic means.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition has been invited to the Arab summit this week, bringing the rebels closer to filling Syria's seat in the Arab League, the group's Qatar envoy said Sunday.
The invitation was revealed as differences over the participation of the opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the summit emerged during a ministerial preparatory meeting on Sunday.
The Qatari hosts are vocal champions of the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and said leaders of the armed opposition would definitely be joining Arab heads of state in Doha.
Qatar is a main backer of the Syrian National Coalition and has called for more arming of the rebels.
Syrian opposition leaders are to address an annual summit of the Arab League for the first time in Doha, but the bloc’s members remain divided over whether to give them Damascus’s vacant seat.
Qatar's Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said Sunday that Hitto would be welcomed. It was not immediately clear, however, whether he would attend.
"We look forward to their participation in the Arab summit the day after tomorrow (Tuesday)," Sheikh Hamad in Jabr al-Thani said at the opening of an Arab foreign ministers meeting in Doha, the Qatari capital where the summit will also take place.
The opposition alliance has begun steps to form an executive body to administer rebel-held territory inside Syria, electing Hitto at a meeting in Turkey earlier this week.
The league on March 6 called on the coalition “to form an executive body to take up Syria’s seat” and attend the summit which opens on Tuesday. Arab League foreign ministers agreed March 6 to let member nations arm Syrian rebels, and invited the opposition coalition to take the League seat formerly occupied by Damascus.
Previously the League had said only that the Syrian political opposition and rebels should be supported by humanitarian and diplomatic means.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia have championed Syrian rebels, and called on the U.N. Security Council to adopt resolutions to end the conflict that has also displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
But Lebanon distanced itself from the decision, while Algeria and Iraq expressed reservations.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari reiterated Baghdad’s reservations over recognising the opposition as representatives of the Syrian people in the league.
“We have expressed reservations... for legal reasons,” he said at the ministerial meeting.
In all, nine of the bloc’s other 21 members retain diplomatic missions in Damascus -- Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Sudan and Yemen -- despite its decision last November to recognize the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 after Damascus rejected a peace plan calling for an end to the violence but demanding that President Bashar al-Assad step down.
The bloc also imposed a raft of other sanctions, including suspending trade with the government, freezing its bank accounts abroad, and suspending air links.
In Damascus, Syria`s regime accuses Qatar and its heavyweight neighbor Saudi Arabia of fanning the conflict by arming the rebels with Western connivance.
The Syrian conflict has killed more than 70,000 people since March 2011, prompted more than a million to flee abroad, and displaced four million more inside the country.