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France Recognizes Syrian Opposition

French President Francois Hollande announces French backing of the new Syrian opposition coalition at a major press conference at the Elysee Place in Paris on November 13.
France has become the first Western country to recognize Syria's new opposition coalition.

Syrian opposition groups struck a deal in Doha, Qatar, on November 12 to form a broad coalition to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

A 20-month old uprising against Assad has left tens of thousands dead and many more displaced.

French President Francois Hollande made the announcement in Paris to reporters on November 13.

"What took place in Doha is very important. A coalition was formed. I announce here that France recognizes the Syrian National Coalition as the only representative of the Syrian people and the future provisional government of a democratic Syria as we wait for the regime of Bashar al-Assad to be gone," Hollande said.

Hollande said it was premature to talk about any international military intervention in Syria.

"There will only be an intervention if the Security Council decides on it. At the moment, it is not minded in that direction given that Russia is opposing it. So we will act differently, in the name of principles of protection of the civil population. Everywhere freed zones have been formed, and will be under the authority of that government, they will be protected," Hollande explained.

Damascus has described the French decision as "immoral."

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad told reporters on November 14 that France was offering support to "killers" and "terrorists" and accused Paris of "encouraging the destruction of Syria."

Meanwhile, Arab League and European Union foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on November 13 welcomed the formation of the coalition as an important step forward but did not offer official recognition.

Such backing has come so far from six Gulf Arab states and now France.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said ministers agreed solving the Syrian crisis required regional cooperation.

"The tragedy of Syria is the tragedy that affects not just that country but the whole region. Countries represented here know the challenges of refugees who are fleeing for their lives, the threat of the overspill of violence, the challenges to stability of the region and the concerns that causes. We have to continue and to strengthen our efforts in support of all the people of Syria," Ashton said.

Meanwhile, Iran - a close ally of Assad - announced it will host a Syrian national dialogue meeting next week.

Quoted by the official IRNA news agency, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said "the slogan of this one-day meeting will be 'no to violence, yes to democracy'."

Based on AP, AFP and Reuters reporting