DAMASCUS - Syrian National Council chief Burhan Ghalioun said Thursday he is resigning to avert divisions within the opposition bloc, after activists on the ground accused him of monopolising power. "I will not allow myself to be the candidate of division, I am not attached to a position, so I announce that I will step down after a new candidate has been chosen, either by consensus or through new elections," said the Paris-based academic. His statement came as Syrian forces launched a blistering assault on the rebel stronghold Rastan in central Homs province, in a new bid to overrun one of the major opposition holdouts against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Ghalioun, who has led by consensus rather than through election since the SNC's founding in October 2011, was re-elected as the exile group's chairman in a vote held in Rome on Tuesday.

He said he would remain an SNC member "hand-in-hand with the young people who struggle, the young people of the revolution of dignity and freedom, until victory," while urging all opposition groups to overcome their divisions.

Highlighting those divisions, the Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists on the ground, threatened hours earlier to pull out of the SNC over its lack of collaboration with activists in Syria and "monopolisation" of power.

"The deteriorating situation in the SNC is an impetus for us to take actions, which could begin with a freeze (of LCC membership in the SNC) and end with a withdrawal if errors are not solved and demands for reform go unmet," said the network.