France is encouraging Syrian opposition groups to get organized but remains opposed to outside military intervention to stop violence against civilians, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday.
The Syrian security forces' violent suppression of demonstrators opposed to President Bashar Assad has killed some 3,500 civilians over the past eight months, according to UN estimates.
Opponents of Assad's government in the Syrian diaspora have so far struggled to form a unified front because of internal divisions along ethnic, sectarian and religious lines.
The Syrian National Council, formed last month and based in Paris, is the foremost opposition group, bringing together people ranging from exiled dissidents to grassroots activists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"They still need to get organized," Juppe told French BFM radio. "We have had contacts with them... in any case we are helping them, we are encouraging them to get organized."
Juppe repeated that France was opposed to any foreign military intervention in Syria.
Juppe and Burhan Ghalioun in Paris (Photo: AFP)
Juppe met SNC president Burhan Ghalioun in Paris last month, shaking his hand in a symbolic display of support, but stopped short of granting his movement official recognition from France.
Ghalioun, visiting Moscow on Tuesday, urged Russian leaders to join the international chorus calling for Assad to resign. Russia said opponents should hold talks with Syria's government.
Syrian army deserters, unwilling to obey orders to crush mainly peaceful protest demonstrations, have recently banded together and begun an armed insurgency.
On Wednesday they attacked an intelligence complex on the edge of Damascus in a high-profile assault that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said was "similar to real civil war".
France, which recalled its ambassador from Syria on Wednesday in protest against attacks on French missions there, was the first Western power to recognize Libyan rebels in March.
China and Russia vetoed attempts to push a resolution condemning Assad's government through the UN Security Council last month, but three Western powers - France, Britain and Germany - are calling for a vote in the General Assembly on Tuesday to condemn the violence.
Several Arab states may join the non-binding call after the Arab League suspended Syria's membership and said it was studying possible economic sanctions.
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