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By Samuel Burke, CNN
The newly elected leader of the Syrian opposition, cleric Sheikh Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, is optimistic after President Barack Obama’s statements about Syria on Wednesday.
The popular Sunni cleric, known for his moderate views, was elected head of Syria’s new opposition group this weekend in Doha. Khatib was jailed four times during the uprising for criticizing the Syrian regime.
In a press conference Wednesday, President Obama said he was encouraged to see the Syrian opposition organizing under an umbrella group and considers them a “legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people,” but said he is not prepared to recognize the group as “some sort of government in exile.”
Despite the fact President Obama stopped short of full recognition of the new opposition coalition Khatib told CNN’s Hala Gorani, “It is a good step initially and really I appreciate it. This decision and all the people wait for more because the international society for about two years didn’t do anything for Syria’s [people] while the regime killed and slaughtered them.”
President Obama said that U.S. envoys are going to be traveling to the region to hold talks with both the international community and Khatib’s opposition group.
But he said that he would not directly arm the rebels because “extremist elements” have inserted them in the opposition, and he does not want weapons to get in the hands of groups who would do Americans or Israelis harm.
When Gorani asked Khatib if he was frustrated by a lack of arms support he simply replied, “No, because people in Syria they have nothing [more] to lose.”
While Khatib says he sees the reelection of President Obama as positive, he says Syria needs more help.
“We expect, of the U.S., more support.”
CNN’s Claire Calzonetti produced this piece for television.