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Syrian opposition achieves greater legitimacy with U.S., gains 'foreign mission' status

The U.S. is committed to empowering the Syrian opposition, a U.S. senior administration official said Monday, because "it has demonstrated its commitment to serving the interests and the needs of the Syrian people and to working with the international community toward a negotiated political transition that we all hope to see."

By
JC Finley
Demonstrators hold Syrian opposition flag during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib, in Syria, February 24, 2012. Syrian troops shelled the rebel stronghold in Homs for the 22nd straight day, after a pause allowed relief workers to evacuate some civilians, monitors said. (UPI)
Demonstrators hold Syrian opposition flag during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib, in Syria, February 24, 2012. Syrian troops shelled the rebel stronghold in Homs for the 22nd straight day, after a pause allowed relief workers to evacuate some civilians, monitors said. (UPI) | License Photo

DAMASCUS, Syria, May 7 (UPI) -- The United States is committed to empowering the Syrian opposition, a senior U.S. administration official said Monday.

The U.S. officially recognized the Syrian opposition "as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people" in December 2012.

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On Monday, the Syrian Opposition Coalition's Representative Office in the U.S. was officially designated a "foreign mission" by the State Department.

In response to its newly established foreign mission, Syrian opposition President Ahmad Jarba observed "This is an important step in the path toward a new Syria, its recognition on the international stage, and its relations with Syrian nationals in the US. The new status provides a diplomatic platform for the Coalition to advance the interests of the Syrian people at all levels. This is a diplomatic blow against Assad's legitimacy and demonstrates how far the opposition has progressed."

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The U.S. official noted that the U.S. is seeking to expand its assistance. Congress has been asked to approve an additional $27 million in nonlethal aid. The U.S. is also committed to delivering nonlethal assistance to Free Syrian Army commanders "to enhance their logistical capabilities," and more closely coordinating with "key regional allies" in joint support to the moderate opposition.

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In terms of America's "endgame" vis-a-vis the Syrian crisis, the senior U.S. official said that "it’s really been our strategy from the very beginning to work with and support moderate elements in the Syrian opposition and the likeminded international partners ... to bring about that kind of political transition that would get Assad out of power and lead to a government which is capable of serving the interests of the Syrian people."

The Syrian opposition says it welcomes America's assistance in its fight against the Bashar al-Assad regime.

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Munzer Akbik, Chief of Staff to Syrian Opposition Coalition President Ahmad Jarba, said Monday, "We appreciate the United States' support of the Syrian people's struggle for freedom and democracy. This recognition lays the groundwork for continuing diplomatic relations between the Syrian people and the American people."

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