U.S. President Barack Obama said that his administration recognizes the recently-formed main Syrian opposition coalition as the "legitimate representative" of the Syrian people in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday.
The U.S. president said that his administration made the decision because it feels that the rebel group "is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough" of the Syrian people opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad to merit Washington's recognition.
"Obviously, with that recognition comes responsibilities," Obama said of the coalition, which Britain and the European Union recognized last month.
Those responsibilities include "(making) sure that they organize themselves effectively, that they are representative of all the parties, (and) that they commit themselves to a political transition that respects women's rights and minority rights," Obama said.
Extending recognition to the Syrian opposition is "a big step," the president said, although it does not include the provision of weaponry at this time.
Obama made the announcement on the eve of the fourth meeting of the international allies supporting the Syrian rebels in Marrakech, Morocco.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been scheduled to attend that meeting, but she had to cancel her trip due to a stomach virus, her spokesperson Philippe Reines said. The United States will be represented at the gathering by Clinton's deputy, William Burns. EFE