BEIRUT — The exiled leader of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood denied Monday widespread accusations by other pro-rebel political factions that the group is seeking to impose its will on members of the country’s opposition.
The rare news conference by Mohammad Riad al-Shaqfa highlights the suspicions that his movement has raised in an already fractured opposition. The fundamentalist group has a powerful donor network among members in exile and supporters in oil-rich Persian Gulf countries, especially Qatar. Many in the opposition say the Brotherhood uses its support and money as key levers for influence.
“Our aim is not to tear apart but to unite the [Syrian] opposition,” Shaqfa told reporters in Istanbul, where he is based. He blamed accusations against his group on “lies and fabrications” that he said were spread by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Some rebels say the Brotherhood is trying to control the uprising through the political opposition’s groups in exile, such as the Western-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition umbrella bloc, marginalizing fighters inside the country from non-Islamist groups. They say the movement is positioning itself to take power once the war against Assad is won.