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114 countries back new Syrian coalition

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published December 12, 2012 at 7:55 a.m. Updated December 12, 2012 at 11:42 a.m.

— More than a 100 countries Wednesday recognized a new Syrian opposition coalition, opening the way for greater humanitarian assistance and possibly even military aid to the forces battling Bashar Assad.

The opposition has been under intense international pressure to create a more organized and representative body to receive foreign aid, so it formed the Syrian National Coalition in Doha, Qatar, in November, and it was widely applauded at the conference in Morocco.

“With every day that passes, the regime’s hold on power weakens. Territory slips from its grasp. The opposition becomes more unified and organized,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for the Middle East William Burns.

His boss, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was expected to attend the conference but canceled following an illness.

“We look to the coalition to continue creating more formal structures within the opposition and to accelerate planning for a democratic political transition that protects the rights, the dignity and the aspirations of all Syrians and all communities,” Burns said. He also announced that the leadership of the new coalition has been invited to Washington.

As the conference was taking place, an explosion occurred near the Syrian Interior Ministry in Damascus, according to state TV, possibly another audacious rebel attack at the center of the regime’s power. Fighting has intensified in the southern districts of the Syrian capital and its suburbs.

The conference came hours after President Barack Obama declared its new coalition was the “legitimate representative” of its country’s people.

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