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SNC asks to be recognized as 'sole representative of Syrians' at Istanbul meeting

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Al Arabiya

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the "legitimate demands of the Syrian people must be met, right here, right now" as Western and Arab countries met in Istanbul on Sunday to try to agree on how to support armed rebels fighting to unseat President Bashar al-Assad.

Erdogan was addressing a meeting of mostly foreign ministers from around 70 countries including the United States and leading European Union and Gulf powers who call themselves the Friends of Syria.

The Turkish prime minister, speaking at the start of the conference, said the international community would have no choice "but to accept Syrians' right to self-defense," if the U.N. Security Council fails to intervene to halt the crisis.

SNC wants recognition as 'sole representative'

The leader of the opposition Syrian National Council on Sunday called on the international community to recognize the group as the sole representative of the Syrian people reported AFP.

"We want the recognition of the SNC as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people," Burhan Ghalioun said at the conference.

He also announced that the group would pay for the salaries of all rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"The SNC will take charge of the payment of fixed salaries of all officers, soldiers, and others who are members of the Free Syrian Army," said Ghalioun.

Clinton on Assad's 'broken promises'

Assad's regime is adding to a "long list of broken promises" by launching new assaults on Syrian cities and towns, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday.

Clinton told participants in Istanbul that Assad had promised to implement U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan but instead was launching new attacks on Syrian cities and denying delivery of aid.

"Our message must be clear to those who give the orders and those who carry them out: Stop killing your fellow citizens or you will face serious consequences," Clinton said.

Clinton said the United States was providing communications equipment to Syria's civilian opposition.

She also called for intensifying pressure from an array of U.S., European, Canadian, Arab and Turkish sanctions on Syria.

She said she was pleased the conference has "agreed to form a sanctions working group to coordinate and expand our national sanctions and strengthen reinforcement."

"Together we must further isolate the regime, cut off its funds and squeeze its ability to wage war on its own people," she said.

To make the sanctions more effective, a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said, Clinton wants to establish a "clearing house of information on who is shipping arms, money to Assad to assist him in his killing" or evading sanctions.

She told delegates that she and her Gulf Arab counterparts who met in Riyadh on Saturday are urging Annan to produce a "timeline for next steps" if Assad fails to stop the bloodshed in line with the peace plan.

Annan's plan calls for a commitment to stop all armed violence, a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire, media access to all areas affected by the fighting, an inclusive Syrian-led political process, a right to demonstrate, and release of arbitrarily detained people.

Annan was due to brief the U.N. Security Council on Monday on the status of his plan.

Damascus blasts meeting

Damascus blasted the Istanbul gathering and referred to it as a "platform for the enemies of Syria."

"Only the naive and those who want to see through the eyes of the Americans believe that this is a conference for the friends of the Syrian people," said Al-Baath newspaper, a pro-Assad publication.

"The call by (Prince) Saud al-Faisal to arm the terrorists, encourage the bloodbath and destroy infrastructure makes the conference a platform for the enemies of Syria, who are discussing everything but the interests of the Syrians," it added.

The paper was responding to calls on Saturday by Saudi foreign minister in which he said "arming the opposition is a duty" because it is unable to defend itself, despite the opposition of Washington and other Western and Arab states to the idea.

But the Damascus daily accused those attending the Istanbul gathering of seeking to weaken Syria.

"This is a regional and international offensive to find ways of killing still more Syrians, and ruining their society and their state, to weaken Syria and transform it into a country resembling those that pander to Washington, Paris, London and Tel Aviv."

The TV channel also lashed out at Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who also spoke at the start of the meeting.

Iraq attends Istanbul meet

Iraq is attending the Istanbul meeting, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said.

Asked about comments by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's spokesman, Ali Mussawi, that Iraq might not attend to preserve its role as mediator, Zebari said: "I think this was ... premature."

Mussawi had said that "we want to maintain our mediation role, and the role of mediator sometimes requires not participating in this conference or that."

The United Nations says Assad's crackdown on the uprising against his rule has cost more than 9,000 lives since it erupted in March last year.

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