DOHA - Rebels won Syria's long-vacant seat at the Arab League on Monday, on the eve of the organisation's summit in Doha, despite rifts within the opposition that have marred their political gains.

A high-ranking League official in the Qatari capital told AFP that the opposition National Council "has been invited to the Arab summit and will occupy Syria's seat" at the 22-member Arab League.

Damascus reacted with fury at the announcement. "The League has handed Syria's stolen seat to bandits and thugs," Syrian official daily Al-Thawra said. "They have forgotten that it is the people who grant the powers and not the emirs of obscurantism and sand," it said, in an apparent reference to key opposition supporters Qatar and Saudi Arabia. A state television station said: "Qatar wants to bypass the rules of the Arab League by giving the seat of a founding member of the League to a coalition that obeys only the money and fuel of the Gulf and submits to American dictates."

The news came a day after National Coalition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib announced his resignation, throwing the fragmented opposition into disarray and denting its credibility. However, Khatib said he will address the summit "in the name of the Syrian people," while the Coalition's envoy to Doha, Nizar al-Haraki, told AFP that Khatib will head the delegation representing Syria on Tuesday. "I have decided to make a speech in the name of the Syrian people at the Doha summit," Khatib announced in a statement on his Facebook page. "This is not linked to the resignation which will be later discussed," he added. The coalition has said it refuses Khatib's resignation.

Haraki told AFP that Khatib will "head the eight-member Syrian delegation at the summit and will occupy Syria's seat." The delegation will include Syria's first rebel prime minister, Ghassan Hitto. The Arab League on March 6 called on the coalition "to form an executive body to take up Syria's seat" and attend the summit, although Iraq and Algeria have expressed reservations, while Lebanon has distanced itself from the decision.

The League in November 2011 suspended Syria after Damascus failed to implement an Arab deal designed to end violence against protesters. The move came after President Bashar al-Assad's regime launched a bloody crackdown on dissent which has since morphed into a civil war in which more than 70,000 people have been killed, according to UN figures.

In eastern Syria, rebel Free Syrian Army commander Riad al-Asaad was wounded overnight in a blast that hit his car in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said. A government official in Ankara confirmed Asaad had been hurt, saying he had lost a leg in the attack but that he was in "good condition" after being rushed across the Syrian border into Turkey for treatment.

Asaad was one of the first officers to defect from the Syrian state military to the rebel forces, joining their ranks in 2011, not long after the uprising began. He served as commander of the rebel forces but has seen his official role diminished by the creation of a rebel military command headed by Brigadier General Salim Idriss.

Rebels fighting to oust President Assad's regime on Monday sealed off the country's only two border posts with Jordan, a military official said. "The Free Syrian Army closed the two crossings of Daraa and Naseeb from their side after they took control of them," the Jordanian official said. He declined to elaborate. Whereas, the UN is moving about half of its 100 international staff in Syria out of the country as violence creeps closer to UN facilities, a spokesman said Monday. The foreign staff in Damascus will be relocated because of "security conditions," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.