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Syria: New opposition head Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib meets with EU foreign ministers


Rebel fighters take part in a demonstration against the Syrian regime after the Friday prayer in the al-Fardos neighbourhood of Aleppo on December 7, 2012. Syrian opposition groups had agreed in Doha last month to sink their differences and form a single body in the hope of getting direct aid, including crucial anti-aircraft weapons, to combat President Assad.


Odd Andersen

European foreign ministers were being briefed by the head of the newly-formed Syrian opposition group Monday amid mounting concern the Syrian leader will unleash chemical weapons in a bid to end months of rebellion, according to CNN

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Syria's state-run press on Monday reported "serious fear" that discussions over chemical weapons represent an effort to frame the regime, after US President Barack Obama said their movement or use would breach a "red line" and elicit a strong US response, said CNN

But retired Syrian Major General Adnan Sillou, who defected to the opposition in July and used to manage Syria's chemical weapons program defense program, told ABC from Turkey today that it's "highly possible" Assad will use chemical weapons "to kill his own people because this regime is a killer."

The exchange comes as EU foreign ministers convene over the crisis in Syria, where an armed rebel movement has been fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime for months in violence that has killed tens of thousands. 

The Brussels event also looks to bolster the credibility of the young opposition coalition, with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle telling reporters as he headed into the meeting that it "is a clear signal of how the status of the Syrian coalition is being reviewed," reported Lebanon's Daily Star

EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton met earlier Monday with National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, commenting afterwards that Europe does "want to help, but it's their country," according to CNN

Al-Khatib will be presenting a new plan for political transition in Syria, an effort the Arab League-United Nations' Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Sunday described as still possible, even in the face of growing violence, said CNN

Also Monday, the Institute for International Finance said Syria's economy is contracting fast and the government is likely to spend all its foreign reserves by the end of next year, according to Reuters

The Washington-based global finance firm estimated inflation at some 40 percent, and said the Syrian currency has fallen by roughly half against the dollar, with a spokesman attributing such developments to a raft of sanctions implemented last year, said Reuters