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World powers recognize Syrian opposition coalition

Dec. 12, 2012 10:57 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 13, 2012 9:56 P.M.)
MARRAKECH, Morocco (Reuters) -- World powers meeting in Marrakech recognized Syria's new opposition coalition as "the legitimate representative of the Syrian people" and called on President Bashar Assad to "stand aside", according to a draft declaration obtained on Wednesday.

The declaration by 130 international representatives comprising the "Friends of Syria" group of nations warned that any use by Assad's government of chemical or biological weapons would be met by a "serious response".

"Participants acknowledge the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and the umbrella organization under which the Syrian opposition are gathering," said the draft declaration obtained before the meeting of major powers, excluding Russia and China.

"Bashar Assad has lost legitimacy and should stand aside to allow "a sustainable political transition" process," said the text of the draft declaration obtained by Reuters.

Referring to recent Western intelligence reports suggesting that Assad could use chemical and biological weapons in the 20-month-old conflict, the major powers said "any use of chemical weapons in Syria would be abhorrent and that this would draw a serious response from the international community".

They also announced the creation of a relief fund "to support the Syrian people", calling on states and organizations to make contributions to the fund.
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