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International Meeting Endorses Syria Opposition Coalition


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Representatives of more than 120 countries and organizations meeting in Morocco have agreed to recognize the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition as the "legitimate representative" of the Syrian people.

The declaration issued at the Friends of Syria meeting in Marrakesh on December 12 calls the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces the sole representative of Syria's people.

The statement also says that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "has lost legitimacy" to rule Syria.

U.S. President Barack Obama on December 11 announced Washington will recognize Syria's opposition coalition, which he said was "inclusive enough" and deserved international recognition.

In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the U.S. move contradicted an earlier agreement to seek political transition in the Arab country.

Lavrov said he was "surprised" by Washington's decision to designate the newly formed opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

At a Moscow news conference on December 12, Lavrov said the move suggested the United States had "placed all bets on the armed victory" of the coalition over the Assad government.

Obama announced the decision in a televised interview.

"We've made a decision that the Syrian opposition coalition 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 told ABC News.

Obama said the United States expected the opposition coalition to act responsibly and commit itself to respecting the rights of Syrian women and minorities.

In Moscow on December 11, Lavrov said the recognition of the opposition coalition contradicted an international agreement reached in Geneva in June that called for a transitional government to defuse the 20-month conflict.

Russia is a longtime Syrian ally and has been accused by Western powers of shielding Assad's regime.

The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was formed last month as a broad-based coalition against Assad. It has already been recognized as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people by Britain, France, and several Arab states.

More than 40,000 people are estimated to have been killed since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011.

The UN refugee agency said this week that more than 500,000 Syrians have been registered or are in the process of registering as refugees in neighboring countries. The agency says at least 250,000 more Syrians are reported to have left their country but have no claimed refugee status or asked for assistance.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, AFP, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax
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