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Syria

France recognizes opposition

First from West to embrace coalition

  • This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows Syrians inspecting the damage and looking for victims moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

    This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows Syrians inspecting the damage and looking for victims moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

  • In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Nobel Peace Prize winner and head of the opposition Egyptian Constitution political party, Mohamed El Baradei, left, meets with  Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. Morsi has been meeting several opposition party leaders over the last few days. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

    In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Nobel Peace Prize winner and head of the opposition Egyptian Constitution political party, Mohamed El Baradei, left, meets with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. Morsi has been meeting several opposition party leaders over the last few days. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

  • In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Nobel Peace Prize winner and head of the opposition Egyptian Constitution political party, Mohamed El Baradei, left, meets with  Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. Morsi has been meeting several opposition party leaders over the last few days. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

    In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Nobel Peace Prize winner and head of the opposition Egyptian Constitution political party, Mohamed El Baradei, left, meets with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. Morsi has been meeting several opposition party leaders over the last few days. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

  • In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud Al-Faisal, left, meets with  Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

    In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud Al-Faisal, left, meets with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

  • In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud Al-Faisal, left, meets with  Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

    In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud Al-Faisal, left, meets with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

  • This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows Syrians inspecting the damage and looking for victims moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

    This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows Syrians inspecting the damage and looking for victims moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

  • This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows Syrians rebels inspecting the damage  moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

    This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows Syrians rebels inspecting the damage moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

  • This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows a wounded Syrian youth being placed in a car moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

    This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows a wounded Syrian youth being placed in a car moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

  • In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 file photo, Syrian opposition figure and prominent Syrian human rights activist Haytham al-Maleh, left, congratulates Muslim cleric Mouaz al-Khatib after he was elected president of the newly formed Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, in Doha, Qatar. While lacking in political experience, Al-Khatib, the 52-year-old preacher-turned-activist is described by Syrians as a man of the people--a modest, unifying figure who commands wide respect among the country’s various opposition groups and rebels. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 file photo, Syrian opposition figure and prominent Syrian human rights activist Haytham al-Maleh, left, congratulates Muslim cleric Mouaz al-Khatib after he was elected president of the newly formed Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, in Doha, Qatar. While lacking in political experience, Al-Khatib, the 52-year-old preacher-turned-activist is described by Syrians as a man of the people--a modest, unifying figure who commands wide respect among the country’s various opposition groups and rebels. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 file photo, Syrian opposition figure and prominent Syrian human rights activist Haytham al-Maleh, left, congratulates Muslim cleric Mouaz al-Khatib after he was elected president of the newly formed Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, in Doha, Qatar. While lacking in political experience, Al-Khatib, the 52-year-old preacher-turned-activist is described by Syrians as a man of the people--a modest, unifying figure who commands wide respect among the country’s various opposition groups and rebels. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

    In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 file photo, Syrian opposition figure and prominent Syrian human rights activist Haytham al-Maleh, left, congratulates Muslim cleric Mouaz al-Khatib after he was elected president of the newly formed Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, in Doha, Qatar. While lacking in political experience, Al-Khatib, the 52-year-old preacher-turned-activist is described by Syrians as a man of the people--a modest, unifying figure who commands wide respect among the country’s various opposition groups and rebels. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

  • This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows Syrians inspecting the damage and looking for victims moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)
  • In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Nobel Peace Prize winner and head of the opposition Egyptian Constitution political party, Mohamed El Baradei, left, meets with  Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. Morsi has been meeting several opposition party leaders over the last few days. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)
  • In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Nobel Peace Prize winner and head of the opposition Egyptian Constitution political party, Mohamed El Baradei, left, meets with  Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. Morsi has been meeting several opposition party leaders over the last few days. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)
  • In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud Al-Faisal, left, meets with  Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)
  • In this photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud Al-Faisal, left, meets with  Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, in Cairo Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)
  • This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows Syrians inspecting the damage and looking for victims moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)
  • This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows Syrians rebels inspecting the damage  moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)
  • This image taken from video obtained from Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and an Associated Press journalist who saw a plane bomb an area around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Ras al-Ayn, shows a wounded Syrian youth being placed in a car moments after an airstrike by Syrian warplanes in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)
  • In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 file photo, Syrian opposition figure and prominent Syrian human rights activist Haytham al-Maleh, left, congratulates Muslim cleric Mouaz al-Khatib after he was elected president of the newly formed Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, in Doha, Qatar. While lacking in political experience, Al-Khatib, the 52-year-old preacher-turned-activist is described by Syrians as a man of the people--a modest, unifying figure who commands wide respect among the country’s various opposition groups and rebels. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
  • In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 file photo, Syrian opposition figure and prominent Syrian human rights activist Haytham al-Maleh, left, congratulates Muslim cleric Mouaz al-Khatib after he was elected president of the newly formed Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, in Doha, Qatar. While lacking in political experience, Al-Khatib, the 52-year-old preacher-turned-activist is described by Syrians as a man of the people--a modest, unifying figure who commands wide respect among the country’s various opposition groups and rebels. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

France yesterday became the first Western country to formally recognize Syria’s newly formed opposition coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

The French move was announced by French President Francois Hollande, who used his first news conference since taking office six months ago to formally recognize the group.

“I announce here that France recognizes the National Syrian Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people and, therefore, as the future provisional government of democratic Syria,” Hollande said.

Under intense international pressure to form an opposition that includes representatives from the country’s disparate factions fighting to topple President Bashar Assad, the anti-government groups struck a deal Sunday in Doha, Qatar, to form a coalition headed by former Muslim preacher Mouaz al-Khatib.

The coalition includes representatives from the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, which was harshly criticized by many, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for being cut off from rebels fighting the war on the ground and for failing to forge a cohesive and more representative leadership.

France, which has played a leading role in efforts to force Assad from power, was also the first to recognize the Syrian National Council. Hollande made no mention of that grouping yesterday.

France has acknowledged providing communications and other non-lethal equipment to Syrian rebels. It has been a leader in pressing for a tough U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria, but it has been blocked by Russia and China.

France also has funneled cash to local Syrian councils to help in tasks like rebuilding bombed structures such as bakeries.

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