Syrian opposition to have ambassador in France

France's President Francois Hollande, right, and the likely ambassador for the Syrian National Coalition, Monzir Makhous, shake hands in the courtyard after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on 17 November 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Benoit Tessier)

Published Saturday, November 17, 2012

President Francois Hollande further solidified France's support for Syria's new opposition coalition Saturday by announcing that they would accept an opposition ambassador in Paris.

The announcement came as the opposition signaled that it intends to move quickly to establish a broad-based alternative government to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Hollande said that France would increase its recognition of the National Coalition by allowing them to appoint an ambassador in the French capital.

Monzir Makhous, an academic, is to fill the post, although it was unclear if this would happen before the transitional government is formed.

After talks with Hollande, coalition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib assured the international community that the transitional government will be composed of technocrats rather than politicians, and include representatives of all the war-torn country's ethnic and religious groups.

But Khatib appeared to have made little progress on his call for the West to arm the rebels with Hollande indicating that the major powers remain cautious about such a step.

"There is no problem. The coalition exists and we will launch a call for candidates to form a government of technocrats that will work until the regime falls," Khatib told reporters after the talks in Paris.

France, which on Tuesday became the first Western state to recognize the coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people, is pushing for the rebels to be given greater support, including some arms.

"I can't hide the importance of this question," Hollande said, while acknowledging that France could not act without agreement from its partners in the European Union, which currently has a strict embargo on arms deliveries to Syria.

"The [rebel] Syrians need military means but the international community also has to exercise control," he said.

EU foreign ministers are set to discuss the arms embargo at talks in Brussels on Monday.

France, Turkey and the Gulf states have so far granted official recognition to the new Syrian grouping, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who met Khatib in London on Friday, said Britain was considering following suit.

EU member states Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland have also welcomed the formation of the National Coalition, but have stopped short of recognizing it as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

The Paris meeting came as fighting continued on the ground, with a car bomb exploding as rebel and regime forces clashed in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, while mortar rounds struck near Damascus.

More than 23,000 people have died since the uprising against Assad's regime erupted 20 months ago, according to the United Nations.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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