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US Okays Diplomatic Mission for Syrian Opposition

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The Obama administration says it has given approval for the Syrian opposition to open a formal diplomatic mission in Washington. It also says it will increase non-lethal aid to the opposition by $27 million.
 
The steps announced by the State Department on Monday upgrade the status of the Syrian Opposition Council, which had been previously represented by an informal liaison office. The administration recognized the council as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in December 2012.
 
The office won't be an embassy but will now be considered a "foreign mission" under U.S. law. The State Department suspended the operations of the Syrian embassy in Washington in March.
 
The announcements come ahead of meetings this week between senior U.S. officials and Ahmad al-Jarba, the visiting president of the opposition council. 

Meanwhile, activists say at least 21 Syrian rebels have been killed, and at least 30 government soldiers were killed or wounded, in fighting today in Syria's contested northern province of Aleppo.
 
As today's fighting continued, rockets slammed into a district held by government troops in the provincial capital, killing nine people.
 
Government forces have been shelling opposition districts with aircraft and artillery in recent months. In advance of next month's presidential elections, troops loyal to President Bashar Assad have been trying to take as much territory as possible from the opposition in Aleppo and elsewhere.
 
The fighting in the province pits Assad's troops against several rebel groups, including one with links to al-Qaida.
 
Aleppo has been divided between government and opposition-held areas since rebels launched an offensive there two years ago.    (AP)
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