DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Syria’s main opposition bloc has begun electing new leaders under intense international pressure from critics who say the exile-dominated group does not represent those risking their lives on the front lines to oust the regime.

The Syrian National Council’s general assembly of some 420 members was choosing two leadership bodies and a president Wednesday during a conference in the Qatari capital Doha.

The SNC, largely made up of exiles, has been criticized as ineffective and out of touch with those trying to topple President Bashar Assad. The US has called for a more unified and representative opposition, suggesting the SNC’s leadership days are over.

SNC officials say the internal election may not be enough to deflect such criticism and halt US-backed efforts to set up an alternate leadership group.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.