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Syrian opposition coalition gets ambassador to France

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:11 PM EST, Sun November 18, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 136 deaths reported Saturday in Syria
  • A new coalition of Syrian dissidents will get an ambassador in France
  • The French president is supporting the new coalition

(CNN) -- A new coalition of Syrian dissidents opposed to President Bashar al-Assad will have an ambassador in France, the French president said Saturday.

The announcement is a boost for the coalition, which seeks to unite the opposition against the Syrian government under a single vision.

The French decision to give the coalition an ambassador follows its pledge, and one by the United States, to support the coalition.

The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council have also endorsed the coalition.

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French President Francois Hollande met with the newly elected leader of the coalition, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, in Paris on Saturday.

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"France reiterated how it was attached to finding a solution quickly and that solution must first pass through the affirmation of a political transition," Hollande said. "This is why we took -- I took -- the decision to recognize the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people."

The two leaders talked about ways in which the coalition could gain both legitimacy and credibility, Hollande said.

The ambassadorship is a stamp of approval for the coalition's efforts to become the centralized conduit for aid, and for an integrated military command.

The new coalition agreed that it wants al-Assad gone and that no one would talk with his government. Spokesman Mohammed Dugham said the only option now is a totally new government.

Syria's new opposition leader expects more from the U.S.

In Washington, a deputy spokesman for the State Department said the United States believes the decision to unite opposition groups marks the start of a democratic future for the Syrian people. Americans have yet to formally recognize the group, though, as a representative government.

After 20 months of relentless turmoil, rebel forces had not had a unified vision for the country or single military plan to oust al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for more than four decades. The United States and Arab nations pressured the groups to get on the same page.

Despite the opposition's unification efforts -- and in light of the government's defiance -- the bloody civil war rages on.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported that 136 people were killed Saturday. Another 122 were killed Friday.

CNN cannot independently verify these figures.

Over 37,000 have died in Syria's civil war, opposition group says

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