'Friends of Syria' Recognize Syrian Opposition
by VOA News December 12, 2012
A group of more than 100 nations calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down has formally recognized a newly formed Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Delegates at the 'Friends of Syria' conference hosted by Morocco endorsed the Syrian National Coalition.
'We want to accelerate the political transition in Syria to stop the bloodshed in this country,' said Moroccan Foreign Minister Saadeddine El Othmani.
The meeting Wednesday was aimed at agreeing on a strategy for a political transition if Assad's government falls. The group also discussed how the conflict is affecting regional security, as well as efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.
Saudi Arabia announced a $100-million aid package for the rebels at the conference.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said in Morocco the sooner the Syrian president 'steps aside, the better for all Syrians.'
The United States recognized the opposition coalition Tuesday, hours after it labeled a Syrian jihadist force fighting alongside the rebels a terrorist organization. The State Department said the Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra group was serving as an alias of al-Qaida in Iraq as it attempts to infiltrate the Syrian conflict.
But Wednesday, the leader of the opposition coalition urged the United States to review its decision to label Jabhat al-Nusra a terrorist group, saying that 'ideological and political differences' with some parties does not change the fact that they, too, want to overthrow Assad.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the U.S. recognition of the opposition coalition goes against efforts to establish a political transition in Syria.
'As the coalition has been recognized as the only legitimate representative, it seems that the United States decided to place all bets on the armed victory of this very national coalition,' said Lavrov.
Moscow opposes Western demands to impose regime change on the Syrian president, a longtime Russian ally.
The U.S. declaration, made by President Barack Obama in a TV interview, stops short of any U.S. commitment to arm the opposition.
In Damascus on Wednesday, Syrian state television reported that a car bomb targeted the main entrance of the Interior Ministry, causing an unknown number of casualties.
Bombs have rocked the Syrian capital since the uprising began in March of last year. Many blasts have attacked government buildings.
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