Last updated: 15 November, 2012

France’s Hollande to meet head of new Syrian opposition

French President Francois Hollande will on Saturday meet the new head of Syria’s new opposition National Coalition, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, in Paris, his office said.

France on Tuesday became the first Western country to recognise the coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

The United States and Britain have both voiced support for the group, which formed in Qatar on Sunday, but have stopped short of declaring it a government-in-exile.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday that France would raise the issue of excluding defensive weapons from the current arms embargo on Syria to help rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Khatib on Tuesday called on world powers to arm the Syrian rebels with “specialised weapons.”

More than 39,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad’s regime erupted 20 months ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said on Thursday.