* France's Hollande says once govt. formed will study arming
* France bcomes first European nation to back opposition
By John Irish
PARIS, Nov 13 France broke ranks with its
European allies on Tuesday by officially recognising Syria's new
opposition coalition and said it would consider arming the
rebels once they created a government in waiting.
Syrian opposition groups struck a deal in Doha on Sunday to
form a broad coalition to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad
after 20 months of an uprising against his rule.
Arab and EU foreign ministers welcomed the formation of the
coalition at a meeting in Cairo on Tuesday as an important step
forward, but stopped short of recognising it.
"I announce today that France recognises the Syrian National
Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian
people and as the future government of a democratic Syria making
it possible to bring an end to Bashar al-Assad's regime,"
Hollande told a news conference in Paris.
Paris, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's harshest
critics, has previously ruled out arming rebel forces, concerned
that weapons could get into the hands of radical Islamists.
Hollande suggested this stance may now change.
"On the question of weapons deliveries, France did not
support it as long as it wasn't clear where these weapons went,"
"With the coalition, as soon as it is a legitimate
government of Syria, this question will be looked at by France,
but also by all countries that recognise this government."
France was the first country to formally recognise the
Libya's transitional government as an alternative to former
leader Muammar Gaddafi and at the time also broke ranks from its
The Gulf Cooperation Council recognised the new coalition on