Global Alliance Recognizes Syrian Rebel Coalition


Representatives of more than 100 countries and organizations grouped in the so-called Friends of Syria alliance seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad said Wednesday they had recognized a newly formed coalition of his adversaries.

But the leader of the freshly minted coalition took issue with a decision by the Obama administration to classify the militant Al Nusra Front — one of several armed groups fighting Mr. Assad — as a foreign terrorist organization and urged the United States to review that decision.

The developments came a day after President Obama said the United States would recognize the rebellious National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the country’s legitimate representative — a diplomatic step that had been widely anticipated.

Earlier this week, the administration censured the Al Nusra front, which it says is linked to an Al Qaeda offshoot in Iraq.

Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, the newly appointed leader of the Syrian opposition coalition, disputed the designation. “The logic under which we consider one of the parts that fights against the Assad regime is a terrorist organization is a logic one must reconsider,” he said. “We love our country. We can differ with parties that adopt political ideas and visions different from ours. But we ensure that the goal of all rebels is the fall of the regime.”

He was speaking after the Moroccan organizers of the conference said a declaration recognizing the new coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people had been adopted by the 114 representatives at the gathering. News reports said the draft declaration adopted by the meeting also called on Mr. Assad to “stand aside” to permit a “sustainable political transition” after the months of revolt and bloodshed that have claimed tens of thousands of lives and sent hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing into neighboring countries.

The document also warned against any use by government forces of chemical or biological weapons, saying such action would be met by a “serious response.”. The Syrian authorities have denied that they would use chemical weapons against their own people.

The gathering’s declaration seemed not to have met the full range of the rebels’ expectations.

“Recognition is nice, but we need real support,” a spokesman for the coalition, Walid Al-Bunni, told The Associated Press. Another opposition figure was quoted as saying: “We need not only bread to help our people. We need support for our Syrian army — we need to speed things up and get rid of this regime.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had been expected to attend the Marrakesh gathering, was not feeling well and did not travel to North Africa and the Middle East this week as planned. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns was leading the United States delegation at the meeting.

The opposition coalition was formed in November at a conference in Doha, Qatar.

The meeting came as Syrian government forces were reported to have launched a major counteroffensive against rebels gnawing at the southern approaches to Damascus, the capital.

While the rebels say that they need weapons more than recognition, Western countries have been reluctant to supply them, partly because of fears that arms supplies could fall into the hands of Islamist militants, suspected of links to Al Qaeda, who have joined the fight against Mr. Assad.

On Wednesday, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said that it was too early for France to supply arms to the insurgents. “For now, we have decided not to move on this,” Mr. Fabius told reporters in Morocco, Reuters reported. “We shall see in the coming months.”

France was the first Western country to extend diplomatic recognition to the opposition coalition last month, followed by Britain, Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

At the gathering here, Mr. Fabius described a “large part” of Syrian territory as “free because the legitimacy of the Syrian regime that was already weak is near to zero.”


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