Obama 'encouraged' by Syrian opposition umbrella group


Syrian Mouaz al-Khatib, the newly elected leader of National Coalition for Opposition Forces, walks inside the Arab League headquarters after a meeting on Syria in Cairo on November 12, 2012. Syria's newly united opposition launched a push for diplomatic recognition at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, buoyed by the hard-won unity deal among the disparate factions.



President Barack Obama approved on Wednesday of the Syrian opposition uniting under one coalition, but stopped short of recognizing them.

Speaking at his first press conference since re-election, Obama said, "I’m encouraged to see that the Syrian opposition created an umbrella group that may have more cohesion than they’ve had in the past," according to The Washington Post.

He added, "We consider them a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people. We’re not yet prepared to recognize them as some sort of government in exile, but we do think that it is a broad-based representative group."

"One of the questions that we’re going to continue to press is, making sure that that opposition is committed to a democratic Syria, an inclusive Syria, a moderate Syria," said Obama.

In response to a question about arming the rebels, Obama said, "One of the things that we have to be on guard about, particularly when we start talking about arming opposition figures, is that we’re not indirectly putting arms in the hands of folks who would do Americans harm, or do Israelis harm, or otherwise engage in -- in actions that are detrimental to our national security."

The US pledged $30 million in humanitarian aid to the Syrian rebels on Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition will set up its headquarters in Cairo, citing officials in the movement.

Mouaz al-Khatib, a moderate Sunni Muslim cleric, was elected on Sunday to head the coalition.

"The decision has been taken to make Cairo the permanent headquarters for the Syrian opposition coalition to meet and plan ahead," an aid to al-Khatib said, according to Reuters.

The decision was confirmed on Wednesday by prominent coalition member Walid el-Bunni from the former Syrian National Council, said Reuters.

The coalition, officially titled the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, was formed on Nov. 11, according to Gulf News. Al-Khatib circulated an open letter outlining his three goals for the coalition: to remove the current "fascist system," encourage minority participation in the revolt and end the bloodshed.

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