The United States wants to make sure that the new Syrian National Coalition is committed to democracy and is free of elements that, if armed, would present a threat to the United States or Israel, U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday.
"We consider them a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people," Obama said at his first press conference since being re-elected last week.
"We are not yet prepared to recognize them as some sort of government in exile," he added.
France on Tuesday became the first Western power to recognize the newly united Syrian opposition as the only representative of the Syrian people, giving a major boost for the opposition. The coalition was hammered out after days of talks in Doha among opposition groups.
Obama said he was "encouraged" to see that the opposition has formed an umbrella group that "may have more cohesion than they had in the past." He said US officials would be talking to the coalition at great length in the coming period.
But he said the U.S. wanted to make sure the coalition and its members were committed to a democratic, inclusive moderate Syria, after seeing extremist elements "insinuate themselves" into the opposition.
"One thing we have to be on guard about particularly when we talk about arming opposition figures is that we are not indirectly putting arms into the hands of people who would do Americans harm or do Israelis harm," Obama said.
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