UK & World News

  • 12 December 2012, 6:38

Obama: US Recognises Syrian Opposition

President Barack Obama has said Syria's opposition is now the "legitimate representative" of the country's people.

His comments in support of the newly formed Syrian Opposition Council mark the most significant US intervention yet in the 20-month conflict.

"We have made a decision that the Syrian opposition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people," he said in an interview with American network ABC News.

The move, which was widely expected, paves the way for greater US support for the council, which has also earned the backing of Britain, France and a number of America's Arab allies.

The council, now seen as the sole representative of Syria's diverse population, was formed at a meeting of opposition representatives in Qatar last month and aims to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al Assad.

The Obama administration has however blacklisted a militant Syrian opposition group that had links to al Qaeda, amid fears the regime may use or lose control of chemical weapons.

Last week, US officials said there was evidence that Syrian forces had begun preparing sarin - a nerve agent - for possible use in bombs.

However, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the regime seemed to have slowed preparations for the use of chemical weapons.

The US position continues to stop short of arming the opposition.

The conflict began in March 2011 as an uprising against Mr Assad, whose family has ruled for four decades. According to activists, 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Mr Obama was speaking after another day of carnage inside Syria on Tuesday, as scores of civilians from Mr Assad's minority sect were reported killed in what appeared to be the largest scale revenge attacks yet against Alawites.

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