BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebel commanders have elected a new 30-member leadership council and a chief of staff, a senior rebel said Saturday in a major step toward unifying the opposition that is fighting to oust President Bashar Assad.

The Supreme Military Council, which was chosen Friday during a meeting in Turkey, will work with the political leadership that was chosen last month in Qatar.

But the al-Qaida inspired group Jabhat al-Nusra, was excluded, the rebel official said, as the rebels apparently move to sideline the extremists who have proven skilled fighters but raised concerns among Western allies.

The announcement came as the Syrian Foreign Ministry claimed that anti-government forces might use chemical weapons, saying rebels have recently captured a chlorine processing plant east of the northern city of Aleppo. The warning was made in a letter to the U.N. Security Council and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.

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