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Syria

Syria Scud missile row erupts

Speculation over Scud missiles in Syria has heated up following the publication of an article in the New York Times, which cites U.S. officials. Meanwhile, Syria's main opposition has taken a step towards legitimacy.

Syrian government forces have targeted areas under the control of the Free Syrian Army with missiles, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

"We're seeing use of another egregious weapon. It's kind of a barrel bomb, which is an incendiary bomb that contains flammable materials," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

However, amid speculation that the Syrian army had started using Scud missiles, the term for a collection of ballistic missiles developed by the Soviet Union, Nuland said she "was not in a position to confirm types of missiles, simply to say that we're seeing missiles employed now."

"Allied intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets have detected the launch of a number of unguided, short-range ballistic missiles inside Syria this week," a NATO official, who wished to remain anonymous, also said.

"Trajectory and distance travelled indicate they were Scud-type missiles," the NATO official said.

Speculation over the use of Scud missiles in Syria arose on Wednesday after the New York Times reported that they were being fired at the Free Syrian Army. A senior U.S. official is quoted in the article as saying that the Obama administration sees the use of Scud missiles as a “significant escalation.” Another official put the number of missiles fired at six.

Whitehouse spokesman Jay Carney did not confirm the story. But he said that, if it was accurate, it would be a "latest desperate act from a regime that has shown utter disregard for innocent life,” and a "stunning, desperate and a completely disproportionate military escalation."

Recognizing the opposition

Meanwhile, in Marrakesh, Morocco, a group of over 120 countries and organizations formally accepted Syria's main opposition group as the “legitimate representative” of the people of Syria.

At the Friends of Syria Conference, those attending recognized "the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people," the final declaration stated.

The group also said that Syrian President Bashar Assad "has lost all legitimacy" and strongly criticized "the disproportionate and blind use of force" against the Syrian people.

The day prior to the meeting in Marrakesh, US President Barack Obama officially backed the Syrian council during an interview on national television in the US, but denounced the al Nusra front.

"There is a small element of those that oppose the Assad regime, that in fact are affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq and we have designated them, al Nusra, as a terrorist organization," Obama said.

As the meeting took place in Morocco, bombs and fighting continued in Syria.

At least one person was killed and others wounded near the capital city, Damascus, when several bombs exploded on Wednesday.

The civil war, which began in March 2011, has claimed the lives of over 42,000 people, according to numbers from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

sej/jm (dpa, Reuters, AFP)