AMMAN — Syrian opposition groups have gathered in Amman to unite ranks ahead of a critical conference in Doha this week, activists said, laying the groundwork for a potential post-Bashar Assad interim government,

According to the press office of former Syrian prime minister Riyadh Hijab, the former premier met with representatives of several political factions in Amman late Thursday in a bid to “unite the efforts of the opposition in line with the sacrifices within Syria”.

Sources close to the deliberations say participants, who included representatives of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, the Syrian National Council and former Daraa lawmaker Riyadh Saif among other high-profile defectors, discussed the potential make-up of an interim government and a timeline for elections in a post-Assad Syria.

The Amman deliberations came a few days ahead of a critical US-backed Syrian opposition conference in the Qatari capital of Doha which is set to attract the participation of 420 activists and observers and is expected to result in the launch of a new umbrella opposition body.

“The Amman meeting was an attempt to reach consensus on all major issues ahead of the Doha meeting to make sure it is a success,” said a source within the FSA present at the gathering.

In addition to the make-up of a transitional government, participants unanimously agreed to reject dialogue with Damascus, sources say.

According to a statement released by Hijab’s office late Friday, participants agreed that Assad’s stepping down from power remains “a precondition to entering any dialogue with the goal of a non-military solution, if it was still possible”.

One of the more divisive issues raised in the Thursday gathering, according to activists, was the fate of the various military and security apparatuses directly linked to Assad’s inner circle.

Activists said participants remained divided whether existing military and intelligence agencies should be dissolved — such as the controversial de-Baathification of Iraq following the US-led invasion in 2003 — or incorporated into a post-Assad Syria.

Thursday’s gathering marked the latest in a series of low-profile meetings between Syrian political factions and Hijab, who has emerged as a leading opposition figure since his dramatic defection to Jordan in August.

Syrian activists say Hijab remains a front-runner to head the new opposition body, expected to be announced on the final day of the Doha gathering on Wednesday and aims to serve as an interim government in a post-Assad era.