In new blow to Assad EU recognizes new Syrian opposition bloc

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The newly formed Syrian opposition bloc that has received Arab and international backing is to be based in Egypt, its head Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib told the official MENA news agency on Monday.

“It has been decided that the Syrian National Coalition will have its headquarters in Egypt," Khatib was quoted as saying after talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr.

Amr said Egypt was willing to “offer any assistance to the coalition in the coming phase.”

The National Coalition was formed last week after extensive talks in Doha, Qatar, one of the six Gulf states that have officially recognized it as the representative of the Syrian people, along with France and Turkey.

The Arab League has recognized the alliance as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition.”

The coalition aims to present a united front to the international community and is lobbying for weapons and cash to help it topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

On the ground, fighting flared along the Turkish border on Monday as rebels took full control of a large army base in the northern province of Aleppo that had been besieged for weeks, a military source and a watchdog said.

“The attack (on Base 46) was huge. The rebels used more than five tanks, mortars and missiles and the army was forced to retreat step by step,” the military source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Many troops from the base were fighting elsewhere, so there were few units left guarding the 12 square kilometer (4.6 square mile) base, situated atop a hill west of Aleppo, the source added.

Near the northern border with Turkey, fighting raged between rebels and Kurdish fighters in Ras al-Ain in Hasakeh province, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The head of the local Kurdish People’s Assembly was shot dead by a sniper from one of the rebel battalions, the watchdog said.

The clashes erupted after a Kurdish demonstration demanding that all rebels not from the town leave. The insurgents refused and attacked Kurdish militiamen at a checkpoint, leaving nine wounded on both sides, the Observatory said.

The Kurdish fighters belonged to the People’s Defense Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is linked to Turkey's rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

A Ras al-Ain activist reported that tension has been high between rebels and the PYD since the insurgents took the town last week.

“The rebels burned a flag of the (Kurdish) Democratic Union Party and the Kurds reacted by burning the FSA flag,” Havidar told AFP.

Rebels accuse Kurdish groups of negotiating directly with the regime, contradicting the aims of the armed rebellion.

Elsewhere on the Turkish frontier, fighting broke out near a border post in the town of Kasab in Latakia province, the Observatory said.

The watchdog which relies on a network of activists and medics, puts the death toll in more than 20 months of conflict at upwards of 39,000.

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