Syrian activists on Thursday dismissed as "blatant interference" a weekend call by Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri for an Islamic state to be established in the strife-torn country.
"The Local Coordination Committees in Syria completely reject the statement by ... Zawahiri in which he called for the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria," said the LCC, a network of peaceful activists on the ground.
"The LCC condemns [Zawahiri's] blatant interference in Syria's internal affairs," it added.
The LCC's statement comes a day after Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, pledged allegiance to Zawahiri but distanced itself from claims of a merger with Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The LCC made no mention of Al-Nusra's statement, while debate rages among activists over whether the powerful jihadists should be recognized as a legitimate part of Syrian revolutionary forces.
Analysts warn that two years into a revolt that has left more than 70,000 people dead, according to UN figures, sectarianism and extremism could sweep away the ideals with which activists first took to the streets in a popular uprising two years ago.
"Only Syrians will decide their country's future. The LCC says once again that the Syrian revolution began in order to achieve freedom, justice and a civil, democratic, pluralist state," the statement said.
It added that the anti-Assad revolt is aimed at setting up in Syria "a state for all its citizens."