U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
The United States declined to follow France in fully recognizing a fledgling Syrian opposition coalition on Wednesday, saying the body must prove its worth, after its predecessor was dogged by feuding and accusations of Islamist domination.
Syria decried the new grouping, which it said had closed the door to a negotiated solution with President Bashar al-Assad.
"The whole world, and Syria too, says the problem in Syria should be solved in a peaceful framework and through a national dialogue, (but) the first decision taken after forming the coalition in Doha was to reject dialogue and to continue the war," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said.
"They want to destroy Syria," he told Russia Today in an interview that was also carried on Syria's state news agency.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the formation of the coalition, which supersedes the widely discredited Syrian National Council as the face of the Syrian opposition, was an important step, but did not offer it full recognition or arms, reports Reuters.
"We have long called for this kind of organization. We want to see that momentum maintained," Clinton told reporters in the Australian city of Perth. "As the Syrian opposition takes these steps and demonstrates its effectiveness in advancing the cause of a unified, democratic, pluralistic Syria, we will be prepared to work with them to deliver assistance to the Syrian people."
The new body brings the Syrian National Council, the hapless former main opposition group seen as under the sway of Islamists and out of touch with rebels on the ground, into a broader bloc with factions inside and outside Syria including rebel fighters, veteran dissidents and ethnic and religious minorities.
On Tuesday France hailed the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces "as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people and as future government of a democratic Syria" - the first Western power to go that far.
Six Gulf Arab states had taken that step the day before, but the Arab League and most European countries hung back.
President Francois Hollande's decisive posture on Syria recalled that of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy on Libya last year, when France led calls for NATO action to protect civilians that effectively helped Libyan rebels topple Muammar Gaddafi.
The European Union bans weapons sales to Syria, but Hollande said the question of arming rebels would be examined once the coalition formed a transitional government. Paris had previously ruled this out, fearing arms could reach Islamist militants.