REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- Libya's provisional leaders have formally recognized the Syrian National Council, according to news reports from Tripoli, becoming the first governmental body to endorse the recently formed opposition alliance as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Council representatives have been lobbying for Arab and Western support. Although the Libyan government is a transitional body, to be replaced by an interim administration once elections can be held, the success of that country's revolution is clearly something that Syrian opposition groups would like to emulate.
The creation of the Syrian National Council, a broad-based group of exiles and internal dissidents, was announced Oct. 2 in Istanbul, Turkey. The group seeks to end the autocratic reign of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has called for a democratic government.
The European Union this week greeted the council's creation as a “positive step forward” and praised its stated commitment to democracy and nonviolence. But European officials indicated it was too early to consider formal recognition of the council.
The EU is said to be considering a new round of economic sanctions against Syria. Neighboring Turkey has also said it intends to implement sanctions against Damascus, previously its staunch ally.
The Assad regime has warned of unspecified retaliation against any government that recognizes the opposition council.
More than six months of unrest in Syria have left almost 3,000 people dead, according to the United Nations. The opposition blames government "thugs" for attacking peaceful protesters. The Syrian government blames armed “terrorists” and says more than 1,000 security officials have been killed.
-- Patrick J. McDonnell
Photo: Syrian dissidents meet in Cairo, where the opposition Syrian National Council was lobbying for support this weekend. Credit: Owaise Mahmoud / AFP / Getty Images