Obama to meet Syrian opposition leader Jarba

WASHINGTON Tue May 6, 2014 3:08pm EDT

Ahmad Jarba, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, speaks during a news conference about chemical weapons in New York, September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Ahmad Jarba, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, speaks during a news conference about chemical weapons in New York, September 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is expected to meet Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba during his visit to Washington over the next week, a White House official said on Tuesday.

The visit by Jarba, president of the Syrian National Coalition, coincides with the U.S. decision to recognize the main opposition group as a diplomatic foreign mission. The United States plans a $27 million increase in non-lethal assistance to rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Jarba, who is in Washington through May 14, will meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday.

"We expect that the president will met with President Jarba during Jarba's visit," said a White House official.

Syrian government forces have made gains on the battlefield and Damascus has announced a presidential election for June 3, expected to be won by Assad. Washington has said the elections are not credible and U.S. officials have denounced them as "phony."

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Diane Craft)

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