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Opposition coalition to name Syria's ambassador to France

Reuters/Benoit Tessier

The Syrian opposition is to have an officially recognised ambassador to Paris, French President François Hollande announced on Saturday after meeting Syrian National Coalition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.

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There will be a Syrian ambassador to France, chosen by the president of the coalition. I've also asked our foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, to keep up pressure on his European counterparts when he meets them on Monday, so that the National Coalition becomes recognized by other European countries, and even from the European Union itself.

François Hollande at the Elysée on Saturday

“There will be a Syrian ambassador in France designated by the president of the coalition,” Hollande announced on Saturday.

France declared the ambassador representing Bassar al-Assad’s regime persona non grata in May, along with two other diplomats, after the killing of over 100 civilians including about 50 children in Houla.

Khatib named Monzir Makhous, who was on the delegation that accompanied him to meet Hollande, as the ambassador.

Makhous, who was born into the minority Alawite sect like Assad, is a “free man who has always worked for the Syrian people”, according to Khatib.

The coalition is planning to set up a government-in-exile that will include “all the components of Syria”, including Alawites and Christians, Hollande said, while Khatib announced that it would launch an invitation for candidates for a “government of technocrats” that would last until the fall of the regime.

Saturday’s announcement follows Paris’s decision to recognise the National Coalition as the representative of the Syrian people, becoming the first Western power to do so.

Coalition members met British Foreign Minister William Hague on Friday but the UK has yet to recognise the body. Hague said that a decision will be made in the next few days.

Asked about France’s proposal that European countries should provide “defensive” weapons to the rebels, Hollande said that the debate would take place “within the European Union”.

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