Supporters of Syrian opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib on Monday pressed him to return as president of the Syrian National Coalition, a day after his resignation complicated Western efforts to back the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad.
Alkhatib was appointed to head the rebel coalition last November, after Western and Gulf diplomacy to make the opposition to President Assad more united. His departure threatened to undo much of the work of giving international clout to the two-year-old armed revolt.
Moderate civilian and military factions in Alkhatib's hometown of Damascus said in a statement:
"We ask you to take back this resignation immediately. Time is too precious to look for a new leadership."
It added: "Intensify coordination with the rebels on the inside, both civilian and military, and unite them. Continue working with transparency with your people and your revolution."
Among the signatories of the letter are the Damascus Youth Brigades for Change, which was among the first to organise peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in Damascus and its environs at the beginning of the two-year revolt, and the Revolutionary Military Council rebel group.
Dspite stepping down, Alkhatib said he would address an Arab League summit in Qatar this week. He said he remains officially president of the 62-member coalition until the coalition meets in a regular session next month expected to discuss his resignation.
Alkhatib had been seen as a moderate bulwark against the influence of al Qaeda-linked jihadist forces.
He resigned after the coalition berated him for offering Assad a negotiated deal and after the group went ahead, despite his objections, with steps to form a provisional government that would have diminished his authority.
Two power centres have emerged in the last few months in the coalition: the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, and the coalition's secretary-general Mustafa al-Sabbagh, a businessman with strong links to Qatar.