Friends of Syria grant Assad opponents recognition but not weapons

Welcome to Middle East Live.

Here’s a roundup of the latest developments:


Barack Obama said the US will formally recognise the Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, in a move designed to sap the legitimacy of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. In an interview with ABC News he said: “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.”

The leaders of Syria’s western-backed opposition are to unveil plans on Wednesday to rapidly move hundreds of millions of dollars worth of humanitarian aid into the most deprived areas of the country. The announcement will be made at the Friends of Syria summit in Marrakech. The opposition movement plans to move aid into Syria through local activists and newly formed civil administrations. It is expected to try to bypass the Free Syria Army (FSA) networks, but will accept help from the main rebel group in securing safe corridors.

The US officially proscribed a jihadist group fighting in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, as a terrorist organisation on Tuesday, alleging it is an alias for al-Qaida in Iraq that has claimed responsibility for about 600 attacks, including 40 suicide bombings. An official said the transition to a post-Assad government was gathering speed and the US did not want extremists dictating the shape of the transition.

 • The Syrian military has used incendiary bombs in at least four locations in the last month, according to Human Rights Watch. Citing witnesses and multiple videos it names the locations as Daraya in Damascus, Maarat al-Numan in Idlib, Babila in Damascus, and Quseir in Homs. 


Judges have voted decisively against overseeing the referendum on the controversial new constitution forcing the vote into two stages. Ahmed El Zend, the head of the judges club, an unofficial body with most of Egypt’s judges among its members, said 90% had decided not to supervise the referendum. However, the high elections commission, the judicial body supervising the referendum, said there were enough judges on board to oversee the voting but only by staging the referendum in two phases, on 15 December and 22 December. 

Egypt’s army chief will host national unity talks on Wednesday seeking to end the growing political crisis. The main opposition coalition said it would decide this morning whether to participate in the talks due start at 2.30pm GMT. The opposition stayed away from an earlier reconciliation meeting called by President Mohamed Morsi last weekend. The National Salvation Front will also decide on Wednesday whether to boycott the referendum or campaign for a no vote.

An International Monetary Fund loan to Egypt has been delayed until next month, after Morsi cancelled tax increases imposed on Sunday as part of the deal. The finance minister, Mumtaz al-Said, said the delay in the loan agreement was intended to allow time to explain a heavily criticised package of economic austerity measures to the Egyptian people.

The New York Times’s Lede blog has gathered photo, video and text accounts of the physical abuse of anti-Morsi protesters detained and beaten by Islamists last week. 

Those protesters were detained and abused during street fighting last Wednesday, which began after supporters of the Islamist president from the Muslim Brotherhood attacked a sit-in by his opponents outside the palace, leading to deadly clashes. Almost as soon as the fighting ended, opposition activists began collecting visual evidence and testimony of the abuse anti-Morsi protesters suffered that night at the hands of the Brotherhood and their allies.

Egyptian Army tanks deploy as Egyptian protesters gather outside the presidential palace during a demonstration against President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo on Tuesday.  Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt's Islamist president staged rival rallies.Egyptian army tanks deploy as protesters gather outside the presidential palace during a demonstration against President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo on Tuesday. Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt’s Islamist president staged rival rallies. Photograph: Hassan Ammar/AP

Leave a comment