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France urges UN to classify al-Nusra as terrorist group

AFP

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called on the UN to classify Syria’s al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organisation in order to differentiate the Islamist group from other opposition forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

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French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius pressed the United Nations on Thursday to blacklist Syria’s al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organisation, in an effort to set the militant Islamist group apart from other more moderate opposition forces in the country.

“In order to avoid any ambiguity, we suggest that the al-Nusra Front, which is opposed to [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad but is also a branch of al Qaeda, be classified as a ‘terrorist organisation on the UN level,’” the French foreign minister stated in an interview with French daily Le Monde.

Fabius also said that France wanted to increase its support of Syria’s opposition organisation, the Syrian National Coalition, highlighting that it needed to “grow, unify and clearly guarantee that the rights of all communities be respected in the event of a regime change”.

The UN Security Council has already looked informally at whether to impose sanctions on al-Nusra after it swore allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri last month. The US State Department officially designated it a terrorist organisation in December.

The militant Islamist element of the Syrian conflict poses a quandary for Western powers that favour Assad’s overthrow, but are also alarmed by Sunni Muslim jihadi fighters whose fiercely anti-Shiite ideology has fuelled sectarian tensions in the Middle East.

Fabius said France still hoped for a political solution and backed plans for an international conference including Russia and the United States that would pick up from a meeting in Geneva in June 2012 which failed to resolve the crisis.

The European Union should keep exploring how to ease its arms embargo on Syria without risking weapons reaching the wrong hands, Fabius said, while the West should decide how respond if it is confirmed that Assad’s army is using chemical weapons.

“We must move and move fast,” he said. “If we don’t halt this conflict, we’re looking at the country imploding.”

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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