Big powers to recognise Syrian opposition

Western powers

The mainly Sunni Muslim rebels have scored a string of victories against Assad's forces, many of them from his Alawite religious minority. There is little evidence that the government is regaining control, residents say.

The Syrian army is using warplanes and heavy artillery to try to halt further advances by rebels, many of them die-hard Islamists. Opposition leaders say they need heavy weapons to sustain the momentum and change the military equation in a conflict which has killed 40,000 people since March 2011.

The two sides battled near Damascus airport, about 25 km (15 miles) southeast of the palace. The rebels now hold a near continuous arc of territory from the east to the southwest of his power base.

Damascus residents are facing power cuts and food shortages as they try to prepare for winter. In central Syria an attack on a village killed or injured as many as 200 members of Assad's Alawite minority sect, activists said, but it was unclear who was behind the assault.

Assad's political and armed opponents, dogged by splits and rivalries throughout their battle to end his family's 42-year rule, have established a more unified political opposition and military command, hoping to win international support.

France, Britain, Turkey and the Gulf states have already granted the formal recognition. The European Union, in a meeting on Monday, moved a step closer towards recognition. Russia restated its opposition on Wednesday.

The opposition says what it really needs is weapons.

"We are telling the international community that we don't want their military intervention but we want them to supply us with developed anti-aircraft defence systems," Seif said. "The Syrian people can finish off the battle within weeks if we get this support."

Little in the way of direct military or financial support is expected to be channelled to the coalition at the Morocco meeting, partly because it lacks the ability to act as a provisional government and because Western powers are still wary of backing Islamist fighters in the rebel ranks.

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