New Syrian ambassador to France named



Paris: French President Francois Hollande and the new Syrian opposition leader announced plans on Saturday to install an ambassador to represent Syria in France.

The surprise move came after talks at France's presidential palace between Hollande and Moaz al-Khatib, head of the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition.

France recognised the coalition days after it was formed on Sunday and so far is the only Western country to do so.

Al-Khatib said the new envoy will be academic Mounzir Makhous, describing him as "one of the first to speak of liberty" in Syria.

He holds four doctorate degrees and belongs to the Muslim Alawite sect of Islam, like Syrian President Bashar Assad, al-Khatib said. The new envoy was at the talks Saturday in Paris.

It was widely believed that France might agree to the appointment of an ambassador but not before a provisional Syrian government was formed. Al-Khatib suggested that a provisional government would come quickly.

"We have no hidden agenda," al-Khatib said in a bid to reassure other nations. More than 36,000 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising against Assad began in March 2011 and the new coalition is pressing for the means to defend Syrian civilians.

In other news, Turkish cameraman Cuneyt Unal who was captured by Syrian forces while covering fighting in the city of Aleppo in August has been released and will return to Turkey, a delegation who negotiated his freedom told Turkish media.

France has taken the lead in efforts to oust Assad's regime, and Hollande reiterated Saturday that the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces is for France the sole representative of the Syrian people and a future provisional government.

Hollande also confirmed that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was also at today's talks, will raise the issue of lifting the EU arms embargo against Syria at a meeting Monday in Brussels among European Union foreign ministers.

Fabius has suggested supplying defensive weapons so Syrian rebels can protect themselves from attacks by Assad's regime.

Since May 2011, the EU has imposed a ban on the export of weapons and equipment to Syria that could be used for "internal repression. "

Fabius will also press EU partners to recognize the coalition, Hollande said. Hollande said al-Khatib, a preacher-turned-activist, reassured him that the coalition he leads seeks unity of the Syrian people and France aim in moving quickly is to "assure its legitimacy and credibility."

PTI