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People pass burning garbage on a street in the rebel-controlled part of Aleppo in Syria on Monday AP Photo/Narciso Contreras

France becomes first Western country to recognise new Syria coalition

Francois Hollande said France will only recognise the opposition government as part of a series of steps to end the Bashar al-Assad regime.

FRANCE HAS OFFICIALLY recognised the newly formed opposition National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people, the first Western country to do so, and said the question of arming them must now be reviewed.

“I announce that France recognises the Syrian National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people and thus as the future provisional government of a democratic Syria, allowing an end to the Bashar al-Assad regime,” President Francois Hollande told a press conference in Paris.

Earlier, the coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib called on world powers to arm Assad’s foes, saying they desperately needed “specialised weapons” in order to “cut short the suffering of the Syrians and their bloodshed.”

Hollande said the question of arming the rebels, hitherto opposed by France, would have to be reviewed.

“This question will have to be necessarily reviewed not only in France but in all countries which will recognise this government,” he said.

For its part, the United States said the coalition was “a legitimate representative” of the Syrian people, but stopped short of recognising it as the sole representative.

Britain has said it wants to see more evidence that the grouping has strong support inside Syria before formally recognising it.

Recognition from other countries

The French move came 24 hours after the coalition was recognised by the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

The diverse forces involved in the coalition agreed on Sunday to unify their fighting forces under a supreme military council and set up a national judicial commission for rebel-held areas in Syria.

They plan to form a provisional government once the coalition has been widely recognised internationally.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Tuesday welcomed the bloc and urged it to bring in more regime dissenters, with Khatib responding that “it is the strongest coalition and represents Syria internally.”

“Many groups have joined. Some have reservations, and we are in touch with everyone. The vast majority has joined,” he said in a telephone interview in Cairo.

The 22-member Arab League has stopped short of granting the bloc full recognition, stating only that it saw the alliance as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition”

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