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Hollande Supports Syrian Transition Government

French President Francois Hollande meets Saudi King, says he supports a transitional Syrian opposition government.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/5/2012, 4:44 AM

Saudi King Abdullah welcomes French President Francois Hollande
Saudi King Abdullah welcomes French President Francois Hollande
AFP/Bertrand Langlois

French President Francois Hollande voiced support on Sunday for a transitional Syrian opposition government, AFP reported.

According to the report, Hollande also called Iran's nuclear ambitions a "threat" to the region and the world.

"France is very keen on the formation by the opposition of a transitional government that would give it full legitimacy and ensure democratic transition in Syria," Hollande was quoted as having told reporters after meeting Saudi King Abdullah.

It is "absolutely necessary for the opposition to restructure," he said, as the Syrian National Council began meetings aimed at broadening its membership which has been criticized by the U.S.

Details have emerged of plans to reshape the SNC into a representative government-in-exile, after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton charged that the opposition bloc, in its current structure, was not representative.

Asked about military aid to the Syrian rebels, Hollande said that only if "a temporary government is formed... we could only then ensure where the arms that could one day be provided go."

Paris and Riyadh have "very similar views" on the nearly 20-month conflict, French sources told AFP.

Hollande also mentioned Iran's controversial nuclear program, which he discussed with the Saudi monarch, stressing that Tehran's will to "access nuclear weapons" is seen as "a threat to the entire region and for the world."

Paris and Riyadh "agree" on toughening sanctions against Iran to "prevent it from moving forward" with its nuclear program, he said. Both countries stressed negotiations with Iran as a way to resolve the matter.

Hollande's stop in Jeddah came after a brief visit to Beirut during which he pledged to protect Lebanon against threats of destabilization caused by the conflict in neighboring Syria.

In Jeddah, he spoke of a "common position" between France and the kingdom over Lebanon. "We once again warn all those who would destabilize this country which needs to regain its unity through dialogue,” he said, according to AFP.

Both leaders also discussed the Middle East peace process, according to spokesman Romain Nadal.

Meanwhile on Sunday, the Syrian civil war continued as a huge bomb exploded at a Damascus hotel often used by United Nations observers.

Several people were wounded in the explosions at the Dama Rose hotel, and it is not known the extent of their injuries or if there were deaths.

Such bombings have been common in Syria during its 20-month civil war. At least six, and possibly seven people, were killed last Wednesday in a bombing next to a Shi'ite mosque on the outskirts of Damascus.

The bomb, hidden in a garbage bag in the Sayeda Zainab district, wounded 13 others as it exploded. A second bomb in the area was defused.

A ceasefire declared recently for the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday collapsed several hours after it was to have gone into effect.