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WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama has recognized the leading Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the country's people.
"We've made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime," Barack Obama said in interview with ABC News on Tuesday night.
"So we will provide them recognition and obviously with that recognition comes responsibilities on the part of that coalition," he said. "It is a big step," President Obama added.
The statement came as foreign ministers from 70 countries are meeting today in Morocco to discuss the situation in Syria.
The UK, France, Turkey and Gulf states have already given their recognition after the coalition group was formed at a meeting of opposition representatives which took place in Qatar last month.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the US had decided to place all its bets on the coalition achieving an "armed victory," writes BBC News.
Russia has been supporting Bashar al-Assad's regime since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011.
Obama's announcement follows his administration's blacklisting of a militant Syrian rebel group -the al-Nusra Front- with links to al-Qaida as the US is trying to blunt the influence of extremists amongst the opposition.
The US state department estimates that the group is responsible for more than 500 violent attacks in major Syrian cities in the past year.
"Not everybody who's participating on the ground in fighting Assad are people who we are comfortable with," Obama said. "There are some who, I think, have adopted an extremist agenda, an anti-US agenda, and we are going to make clear to distinguish between those elements."
Activists say more than 40,000 people have died in the conflict. More than half a million Syrians have now fled to neighboring countries, according to the UN's refugee agency.