France to 'develop' contacts with Syrian opposition

France said Friday it planned to boost its contacts with the opposition in Syria to try and bring an end to the bloody crackdown on anti-regime protests.

"We will develop our contacts with the opposition," Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told a French ambassadors' meeting. "We will not let up on our efforts to bring an end to the repression and to secure a democratic dialogue."

Juppe did not elaborate on how France would boost its contacts with Syrian dissidents, who in Istanbul last month established a "national council" to coordinate a campaign to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad's regime has defied Western sanctions over its deadly crackdown on dissent, blaming "armed terrorist gangs" for the violence.

The United Nations says that more than 2,200 people have been killed since the beginning of near-daily protests across the country against Assad's regime in mid-March


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