* Alkhatib's appearance will boost his group's status
* Britain and France have already recognised his group
* Washington is expected to also grant it recognition
BRUSSELS, Dec 7 The leader of Syria's new
opposition group will join European Union foreign ministers at a
meeting in Brussels on Monday, bolstering the movement's growing
status among Western powers.
Mouaz Alkhatib, the head of the Syrian National Coalition,
will attend at least part of the meeting, a spokesman for
Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign affairs chief, said on Friday.
Ministers plan to discuss further steps to try to end the
civil war in Syria and to look at ways of loosening an arms
embargo in order to help elements of the rebel forces, EU
Alkhatib's appearance comes at a time when rebels have
brought the 20-month-old uprising against Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad to the doorstep of the capital Damascus after
fighting in which an estimated 40,000 people have been killed.
He has already visited London and Paris, and the coalition
has been recognised by Britain and France as the sole legitimate
representative of the Syrian people.
However, EU foreign ministers stopped short of fully
recognising the coalition at their last meeting on Nov. 19,
though did say they considered its members to be "legitimate
representatives" of the Syrian people.
Monday's EU gathering is in the same week as a scheduled
meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and
allies and opposition representatives in the Moroccan city of
Clinton is expected to announce that the United States
recognises the new coalition as "the legitimate representative"
of the Syrian people - an endorsement Washington hopes will help
the group mature into a transitional government.
The United States is also expected to offer more non-lethal
aid to the rebels, while placing one of the most radical
fighting groups, the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, on a list of
terrorist organisations. But the United States is not - for now
- planning to supply arms to opposition fighters.
EU member states last week decided to review an arms embargo
on Syria - which is designed to cut off supplies to Assad -
every three months instead of every year.
The shorter review period is designed to allow amendments to
be made to the embargo to facilitate the supply of non-lethal
equipment to the Syrian rebels if deemed necessary.