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Syria opposition gains regional backers

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:11 AM EDT, Tue October 11, 2011
A man shouts slogans against the Syrian government in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 23, 2011.
A man shouts slogans against the Syrian government in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 23, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: China calls for Syria to "respond" to calls for change
  • Egypt's democrats back the Syrian National Council
  • Egypt's military and political rulers to do not recognize it
  • Libya's new authorities recognize the Syrian opposition as the representative of the people

(CNN) -- International powers put more heat on Syria's government Tuesday, as a new umbrella opposition group gained key backers in the Arab world and China exhorted the government to respond to people's "reasonable" demands.

The developments come amid a seven-month government crackdown against protesters, an ongoing operation that has stirred condemnation across the world.

The United Nations estimates that 2,900 people have been killed. Activist groups have said the toll exceeds 3,000. The government says it is fighting armed gangs that have killed 1,100 members of the security forces.

The new opposition movement, the Syrian National Council, has received backing from a coalition of Egyptian activists -- the Democratic Alliance for Egypt.

Syrian opposition gains Arab support
Clashes intensify in Syria

The alliance and the council held a meeting in Egypt, said Sayed el-Badawi, whose al-Wafd party is a member of the alliance.

"The meeting aimed to foster a stronger relationship between the Syrian Council and the Egyptian parties," Adeeb Shishakly, a senior member of the Syrian National Council told CNN. "At the conclusion of the meeting, the 43 parties recognized the Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people," he said.

Egypt's military and political leaders have not recognized the Syrian opposition group, despite the delegation's efforts. The Arab League has not recognized it either.

But in Libya, the new authorities there have recognized the Syrian National Council as the "sole representative of the Syrian people."

The support from Libya and the Egyptian parties comes two days after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned countries against recognizing the opposition.

"Syria will take strong measures against any country that recognizes the opposition council formed in Turkey," al-Moallem said Sunday.

"I am not interested in what they seek," he said, according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).

Syria hailed last week's vetoes by China and Russia of a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at the Bashar al-Assad regime. But even though they opposed the U.N. initiative, both countries have called for changes in Syria.

On Tuesday, China exhorted the government to react properly to calls for change.

"We believe the Syrian government should respond to people's reasonable expectations and appeals, and resolve the issues through dialogue and consultations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.

Last week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said his country wants an end to the bloodshed and is calling for the regime to implement changes, state-run RIA Novosti reported Friday.

"If the Syrian leadership is unable to complete such reforms, it will have to go, but this decision should be made not by NATO and certain European countries, it should be made by the people of Syria and the government of Syria," Medvedev told the Russian Security Council.

Many world powers have been outraged over the government's crackdown. The European Union and United States have already imposed sanctions against the regime.

The EU Monday demanded that al-Assad step aside, saying his government's crackdown on opposition demonstrations could amount to crimes against humanity.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz, Jennifer Deaton and Amir Ahmed contributed to this story.

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