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German foreign minister backs Syrian opposition

Ahead of a meeting of European and Arab foreign ministers, Germany’s foreign minister has pledged support for a Syria's new united opposition. Guido Westerwelle said that the new national coalition must now prove itself.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Tuesday that Berlin would back opposition efforts to establish an alternative to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Westerwelle outlined German support for the newly-formed National Coalition of the Syrian Powers of Revolution and Opposition at a meeting with the body's President Maath al-Khatib.

"Germany will endeavor to support the efforts of the opposition towards unity and for an end to the violence," said Westerwelle. "The agreement of the opposition on a common national coalition is an important step forward that must now prove to be a success."

Westerwelle, who invited al-Khatib to visit Berlin in the near future, called on the opposition "to develop a credible alternative to the regime to make a new political beginning possible."

The foreign minister was speaking in Cairo, ahead of a meeting of Arab League and EU foreign ministers at which Syria featuring top of the agenda.

Possibility of recognition

British Foreign Secretary William Hague - who was in the Egyptian capital for the meeting - hailed the formation of the coalition as "an important milestone," adding that London might go on to formally recognize the body.

"We want to see that they have support inside Syria," Hague told reporters in Cairo. "That is a very crucial consideration. If they do all these things, well then, yes, we will be able to recognize them as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people."

The national coalition brings together various groups, including the Syrian National Council (SNC), from the factious Syrian opposition movement. The coalition was formally established on Sunday at the end of lengthy talks in Qatar. A push for unity arose after complaints that the SNC - made up of a significant number of exiled Islamists - was not representative enough.

On Monday, both the Gulf Cooperation Council, a collection of six Gulf states, and the Arab League said they recognized Syria's newly-formed opposition coalition as the representative of the Syrian people.

rc/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)