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President Barack Obama said the U.S. has recognized the Syrian opposition coalition as representing the country's citizens in an interview with ABC News.
By NBC News staff and wire services
The United States now considers the Syrian opposition coalition to be the "legitimate representative" of the nation, President Barack Obama said Tuesday.
"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 in opposition to the Assad regime," Obama said in an interview with ABC News.
The move, which was widely expected, could give new international legitimacy to the rebels fighting to overthrow the regime of Bashir Assad but stops short of authorizing the U.S. to arm the opposition, something Obama has steadfastly refused to do.
The decision came as U.S. officials attend the Friends of Syria meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, to discuss the 20-month-old crisis.
On Tuesday, the U.S. designated the radical Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra, an important element in the opposition struggle, as a foreign terrorist organization and said it was trying to hijack the rebellion on behalf of al-Qaida in Iraq.
U.S. officials said the al-Nusra group had claimed responsibility for carrying out nearly 600 attacks in major cities that have killed numerous innocent Syrians. Al-Nusra, one of the most efficient fighting groups in Syria, is not part of a new, Islamist-dominated military command elected in Turkey over the weekend.
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Obama says US recognizes Syrian opposition coalition
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