Obama says US not ready to recognize or arm newly formed Syrian opposition group

Matthew Lee, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama says he is encouraged that the Syrian opposition has formed a new, more representative leadership council. But he says the U.S. isn't ready to recognize the group as a "government in exile" or to arm it.

Obama said at a White House news conference Wednesday that the U.S. believes that the new council is "a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people."

But he says his administration isn't prepared to recognize the group as a successor to Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.

Obama also says the U.S. isn't currently considering sending weapons to Assad foes because of concerns the arms might fall into the hands of extremists and damage regional security.

On Tuesday, France became the first Western country to formally recognize the new opposition coalition.