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Syrian opposition coalition appoints new military chief, after year of fading influence

The coalition of Syrian opposition groups in exile has appointed a new army chief, following a year of seeing their influence fade among fighters within Syria.

The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition said Tuesday that it was appointing Brigadier Abd al-Ilah al-Bashir to head the Free Syrian Army.

He replaces Gen. Salim Idris, seen as a secular-leaning moderate.

In a statement, the coalition said they hoped al-Bashir would strengthen the role of the FSA.

The switch comes after a series of so-far failed talks in Switzerland between officials loyal to President Bashar Assad and exiled opposition activists to try to resolve the three-year war.

It also comes after at least a year of the FSA losing influence to other, more hard-line rebel groups, including al-Qaida affiliates and spinoffs.