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Qatar to hand Syrian embassy to opposition

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iol pic wld  Mideast Syria Opposition Leaders

AP

Syrian opposition figure and prominent Syrian human rights activist Haytham al-Maleh, left, congratulates Muslim cleric Mouaz al-Khatib after he was elected president of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, in Doha.

Beirut - The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) will gain control of the Syrian embassy building in Doha, the Qatari government decided Wednesday, in a move further boosting the SNC's status.

“Qatar has decided to hand over the Syrian embassy building in Doha to Mr Nizar al-Haraki after his appointment as ambassador for the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces,” the coalition said.

Al-Haraki, 51, hails from Daraa in southern Syria, the cradle of the uprising - which started in March 2011 - against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“The flag of the revolution will be raised above the embassy building,” said the coalition. It did not specify a date for the handover.

The National Coalition was formed in November and has since been recognized by many countries, including Western powers and wealthy Gulf countries.

The coalition has named envoys to France and Britain, but neither of those countries has handed Syrian embassy facilities to the opposition.

“We regard this step as very positive. We hope other friendly countries will do the same,” Walid al-Bunni, spokesman for the coalition, said.

In Cairo, the Arab League ruled out handing Syria's seat in the pan-Arab bloc to the opposition.

“This is unlikely,” said Ahmed Bin Heli, the organization's deputy head.

The League has suspended Syria's membership to protest al-Assad's clampdown on dissenters.

Bin Heli also said the organization would not be represented at a meeting that the Syrian National Coalition has scheduled in Cairo on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Jihad Makdissi, a former spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, said he left his country last year due to what he called “destructive” violence.

He added, in his first comment since disappearing in December, that the violence in Syria left no place for “moderation and diplomacy.”

Makissi, who did not disclose his whereabouts, said those struggling against al-Assad's regime had rightful demands “that no one could deny.”

In Syria itself, opposition fighters reportedly pushed to capture more military bases in the north, a day after they overran a key airbase.

“Our focus now, especially in the north, is to capture all major military bases and cut all major ammunition routes for the regime forces,” said Abu Alaa, a commander in the rebel Free Syrian Army based near the northern city of Aleppo.

“All rebel forces in the north have united their ranks and started this major assault since Monday,” he added.

Syrian insurgents Tuesday overran the al-Jarrah military airport near Aleppo, where they said had seized usable warplanes for the first time since the start of the conflict.

Earlier in the week, rebels claimed control of the Euphrates Dam in the northern area of Raqa.

The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said rebels had launched a major assault near Maaret al-Noumaan and Wadi al-Daif in the northern province of Idlib.

Russia's arms export agency Rosoboronexport said Moscow was still delivering military hardware, including air defence systems, to Damascus.

“We are continuing to fulfil our obligations on contracts for the delivery of military hardware,” the head of the agency, Anatoly Isaikin, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

Russia is a main supporter of al-Assad's regime and, along with China, has used its veto power in the UN Security Council to protect Damascus from international sanctions.

The number of registered Syrian refugees has risen above 800 000 in neighbouring countries, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in Geneva. It added that the number had been increasing by 5 000 every day. - Sapa-dpa


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