- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns told the meeting in Morocco that the Syrian opposition needs to “stand firm against extremists who would hijack the resistance for their own ends or sow division among Syria’s communities.”

“Human rights abuses cannot be tolerated, no matter who commits them. They will only weaken the Syria you hope to inherit,” he said. The Nusrah Front is “little more than a front for al Qaeda in Iraq, and we urge all our friends and partners to join our efforts.”

However, the Nusrah Front enjoys strong support among Syrians, and the group coordinates attacks with the Free Syrian Army, which includes army defectors.

“It is a good thing that Alkhatib is listening to the Syrian people,” said Abu Rami, a Syrian activist based in the western city of Homs, in a Skype interview. “The Americans don’t have the right to categorize any battalion that is fighting the Assad regime … only the Syrians have the right to choose who will carry weapons.”

The Nusrah Front is “Syria’s homegrown Salafi-jihadist group, has important links to al Qaeda affiliates and demonstrates a higher level of effectiveness than many other rebel groups,” according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.