Big powers to recognise Syrian opposition
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Major powers are set to give Syria's opposition full political recognition on Wednesday but not the weapons that rebel fighters need to counter President Bashar al-Assad's superior firepower as they gain ground across the country.
The "Friends of Syria," a loose forum of governments opposed to Assad, will meet in the Moroccan city of Marrakech as the rebels intensify their push on Damascus and signs grow that the 20-month uprising may be nearing a tipping point.
President Barack Obama announced on U.S. television on the eve of the Marrakech talks that Washington would now recognise the newly formed coalition of opposition groups as Syria's legitimate representative, which could intensify the pressure for Assad to relinquish power.
"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.
However, his announcement stopped short of authorizing the United States to supply weapons to Syria's opposition - something Obama has steadfastly refused to do.
A diplomatic source in the Middle East gave Reuters a draft text agreed on Tuesday night by the Friends of Syria. It said the participants "acknowledged the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people."
The source said discussion also centered on reference to the right to self defence, which was argued by "a Gulf country but other states were not in favour."
He said a compromise was found stating that the group "recognized the legitimate need of the Syrian People to defend itself against the violent and brutal regime of Bashar Al Assad's."
Fighting is moving closer to Assad's residence in the centre of Damascus and early on Wednesday, government forces fired artillery and rockets at southwestern suburbs of the capital adjacent to the Mezzeh military airport, activists said.