Big powers to recognise Syrian opposition

Western powers

'JOCKEYING FOR POSITION'

A diplomat attending the meeting said there had been much "jockeying for position within the coalition without addressing the main political issues," including making arrangements to work with Syria's Alawite, Kurdish and Christian minorities and creating a framework for transitional justice.

As delegates arrived in Marrakech, the United States announced it had designated the radical Islamist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra - which has claimed responsibility for dozens of car bombs and fights alongside other rebel Syrian brigades - as a terrorist organisation.

Farouk Tayfour, deputy leader of the Syrian Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, said Washington had made a "very wrong and hasty decision".

The fighting has driven hundreds of thousands of Syrians into neighbouring countries and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees said more than half a million were either registered or awaiting registration in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will miss the Marrakech meeting but is sending her deputy William Burns to accelerate the process of helping the opposition.

While U.S. arms for the rebels remain off the table for now, legitimising the disparate forces may make it easier for other countries to act.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are already arming and financing the Muslim Brotherhood and other militant groups while Iran is bankrolling Assad.

"Diplomatic recognition is not enough. We need military support. A transitional phase has started and we need the means to defend the liberated parts of Syria from regime strikes," coalition member Abdelbasset Sida told Reuters.

"We are nearing the end. Battles in Damascus are drawing very near to the inner sanctum of the regime and I do not expect Bashar to last for long," he said.

Syrian opposition campaigner Walid al-Bunni said that after many meetings, the "Friends of Syria" had to show willingness to depose Assad and end the bloody conflict.

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