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Syrian rebels disown opposition

Syrian rebel groups, including a powerful al-Qaida-linked faction have rejected the authority of the Western-backed opposition coalition, as UN inspectors returned to the country to continue their probe into chemical weapons attacks.

In a joint statement, 13 rebel groups led by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front slammed the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, saying it no longer represents their interests.

The move reflects the lack of unity between the political opposition, based in exile, and the disparate rebel groups fighting president Bashar Assad's regime.

The statement also called on all those trying to topple Assad's government to unite under a "clear Islamic framework" - an apparent reference to the al-Qaida faction's aspirations to create an Islamic state in Syria.

It said the rebels do "not recognise" any future government formed outside Syria, insisting that forces fighting on the ground should be represented by "those who suffered and took part in the sacrifices."

Wednesday's rebel announcement, carried by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, came almost two weeks after the SNC, the main Western-backed opposition coalition, in Turkey elected Ahmad Saleh Touma as the opposition's interim prime minister.

Syrian rebels have been deeply divided and clashes between rival groups over the past months left hundreds of people dead, mostly in northern and eastern Syria. Al-Qaida gunmen have been on the offensive against members of the more mainstream Free Syrian Army, though some of the groups that signed on to Wednesday's statement also belong to the FSA umbrella.

Meanwhile, a team of UN chemical weapons arrived in Damascus to continue investigating "pending credible allegations" of the use of chemical weapons.

The visit of the six-member team, led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, follows a report by the inspectors after their previous trip in September, which said nerve agent sarin was used in the August attack near the capital, Damascus.

The United States and Russia brokered an agreement for Syria to give up its chemical weapons but UN diplomats say they are at odds on details of a Security Council resolution spelling out how it should be done and the possible consequences if Syria does not comply

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