ISTANBUL -- After two days of meetings that lasted into the wee hours Tuesday, Syrian opposition leaders elected a prime minister who has spent years in North Texas to lead their interim opposition government.But questions remained about the prime minister's responsibilities and whether a government in exile would have any real influence inside Syria, where tensions flared anew after reports that chemical weapons have now been used in the conflict.Ghassan Hitto, a Collin County resident and a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in the United States since 1983, was named to the post by representatives of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, the group of opponents to Syrian President Bashar Assad that the United States and many other countries recognize as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.But the greatest challenge facing Hitto, who has taken a sabbatical from the communications company where he works to coordinate aid deliveries inside Syria, will be currying favor with and uniting the disparate and often highly localized groups that are fighting the Syrian government and have begun administering rebel-held parts of the country."The first and fundamental priority is to bring down the government of Assad [and] to maximize our efforts to provide services as well as the basic needs for a life of dignity for the people," Hitto said. "The temporary government will start working in the liberated areas and, under the umbrella of the coalition, will guide people along the path ... toward carrying out free and transparent elections that would represent the ambitions of the Syrian people."Hitto also spoke of the need to begin providing government services, including courts and law enforcement, in rebel-held areas, as well as controlling border crossings with Turkey that are held by independent rebel groups, many of them made up of Islamist radicals who do not share Hitto's interest in elections.Texas connectionReports said Hitto received undergraduate and graduate degrees in Indiana before moving to North Texas, where he was director of operations at a mobile telephone systems firm, Integrated Telecom Solutions of Dallas, also known as Inovar.According to property records, he owns a 3,500-square foot home in the Collin County town of Murphy with his wife, Suzanne, who friends said taught at a Muslim parochial school in Garland. Hitto was active in a nonprofit foundation that operates the school and in other religious charities, they said. Murphy is about 25 miles northeast of Dallas.A Wylie-based Muslim charity, Shaam Relief Foundation, issued a news release that said Hitto took a leave of absence from his firm and traveled to the Middle East after one of his four children, a former University of Texas-Dallas student named Obaida, went to Syria a year ago as a media activist. It said his YouTube videos were featured by The New York Times.How Hitto and his coalition deal with those more radical groups will be a major measure of whether they can successfully claim leadership of Syria's post-Assad government. The most effective rebel military groups aren't part of the coalition, including Jabhat al-Nusra, an organization the United States has declared to be a terrorist group and part of al Qaeda in Iraq. Nusra, which is also known as the Nusra Front, has taken the lead in many of the rebels' most recent successes.On Monday, the coalition was briefed by Salim Idriss, the defector and general who heads the Supreme Military Command, the umbrella organization that in theory controls military efforts in Syria's 14 governorates. But the military councils appear to have less support, both materially and among the Syrian people, than do other groups, including Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, another Islamist fighting group.Coalition members said Idriss provided specific information about what weapons had been distributed inside Syria and assured them that those weapons had not been passed off to more radical groups. But that assertion seemed unlikely; earlier this month, conservative Islamic fighting groups in Syria told McClatchy Newspapers that rebel groups regularly share weapons, even those supposedly earmarked for non-Islamist groups.Idriss said, however, that the rebels have received assurances that any errant weapons will be returned."We have promises to have all the weapons returned after the regime falls," Idriss said. "We even have all the serial numbers."Until now, efforts to provide government services in rebel-held areas have been provided largely on an ad hoc basis, often by groups with a religious bent. Sharia courts have begun to appear across the country's north, and the United Nations recently said that Nusra has been able to provide food and other assistance to civilians.Hitto acknowledged that the opposition council would work with Nusra and other Islamists, at least for now."I don't care about the length of the beards as long as they are fighting injustice," Hitto said, referring to the long beards often worn by Islamists.Little known in SyriaDue to his many years in the United States, Hitto is little known inside Syria and even among some members of the mostly exile coalition.Coalition member Salah al-Hamwi, who is in charge of the coalition's local councils in Hama province, said he had worked with Hitto to deliver aid and was impressed that he had left his life in the U.S. to use his skills for Syria."He has the mind of an accountant, not an emotional mind, so he is very good at analyzing what needs to be done," he said.Others in the coalition complained of his selection.Veteran opposition figure Kamal al-Labwani said he suspected that Hitto had been put in place by larger political powers, like Qatar, which has heavily financed the opposition, and the Muslim Brotherhood.He also said he as a coalition member never got to meet or question Hitto before his election."I wanted to ask him what the women in Daraya wear and what's the population of Homs?" he said, suggesting that Hitto was out of touch with Syria."I wanted to ask him how many years he's lived in Syria," he said. "He left when he was young."Hitto won 35 of the 48 votes cast by the coalition's 63 active members.In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland welcomed Hitto's election, saying the U.S. was aware of his aid work."This is an individual who, out of concern for the Syrian people, left a very successful life in Texas to go and work on humanitarian relief for the people of his home country," she said.Staff writer Barry Shlachter contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.