Syrian regime opponent Riad Seif
Syrian regime opponent Riad SeifAl-Watan/AFP/File

Syrian opposition groups meeting in Doha have agreed in principle on a plan to unite against President Bashar Al-Assad, participants announced following marathon talks.

"We have agreed on the main points of the formation of a Syrian national coalition for the forces of the opposition and the revolution. We will continue our discussions on the details on Sunday," opposition figure Suhair Atassi told AFP after 12 hours of talks.

"We were on the point of signing (the accord) but we preferred to give some time to study the internal rules at the request of certain parties," fellow delegate Riad Seif, reportedly seen by Washington as a potential new opposition chief, told AFP.

The participants were set to resume their talks at 7:00 GMT on Sunday, reported AFP.

The deal is based on an initiative by Seif which envisages the formation of a transitional executive to deal with the international community and the channeling of aid.

Under Seif's plan, the 10-member transitional government would be elected by a new 60-member umbrella group drawn from civilian activists and rebel fighters inside Syria, as well as by the exiles who have dominated the Syrian National Council, (SNC).

The SNC was once regarded as the leading opposition representative but is increasingly derided in Washington as dominated by out-of-touch exiles.

The SNC had already twice asked for a postponement of the talks on plans for a broad-based government-in-waiting.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 37,000 people have died since the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011.

Heavy fighting between Syrian rebels and troops continued over the weekend, and on Friday it sent thousands fleeing across the border into Turkey.

The United Nations said more than 11,000 Syrians had fled into neighboring countries on Thursday and Friday, including 9,000 into Turkey, bringing to more than 408,000 the number of registered Syrian refugees in the region.

The UN said the total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq would likely hit 700,000, and the head of its humanitarian efforts said those in need of emergency aid in Syria would rise to more than four million early next year.

In an interview with Russian television, excerpts of which were released Thursday, Assad made it clear that he would not go quietly and warned that any foreign attempt at military intervention would be dangerously costly to the West.

"I think that the cost of a foreign invasion of Syria -- if it happens -- would be bigger than the entire world can bear... This will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific," he told Russia Today.

"I do not believe the West is heading in this direction, but if they do, nobody can tell what will happen afterwards," he said.

Assad warned Syria was facing a protracted conflict because foreign powers were backing rebels fighting his regime, but insisted there was no civil war.

He admitted divisions existed in the country, but said "division does not mean civil war," and denied his forces had committed war crimes.