Mr. Khatib projected an earnest, unpolished persona and never fit the profile of a politician, sometimes failing to build support for controversial moves before announcing them and then posting mournful statements on Facebook about how he had been misunderstood. Some coalition members and anti-government activists in Syria said they wished he had stayed in office to push back against the foreign interference he spoke of, rather than resigning abruptly and emotionally.
A coalition member familiar with Mr. Khatib’s thinking, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss politically sensitive matters, said Mr. Khatib resigned over interference from Saudi Arabia, a key backer of the Syrian uprising.
The member said that Saudi Arabia threatened to cut off funding and split the coalition if it did not select its favored candidate for prime minister, Assad Mustafa, who had promised to appoint a Saudi favorite as defense minister. That, the member said, enraged members, who then hastily settled on Mr. Hitto, who was backed by Qatar and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
Another member, Mustafa Sabagh, who is close to the Saudi government, denied the Saudis had interfered and said he believed Mr. Khatib resigned over the many conditions Western countries had placed on aid to the uprising…
…“We in the Free Syrian Army do not recognize Ghassan Hitto as prime minister because the National Coalition did not reach a consensus,” Louay Mekdad, the Free Syrian Army’s media and political coordinator, said, raising further questions about the interim government’s ability to establish authority.
Mr. Khatib promised to keep working for Syria outside official channels. “The door to freedom has opened and won’t close,” he said, “not just in the face of Syrians but in the face of all peoples.”
Some read that remark as a possible dig at Gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar that support the Syrian uprising but keep a tight political clampdown on their own citizens – but given Mr. Khatib’s oblique style, it was hard to tell.
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