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“We would like this to lead to a process of democratic transition and not be confined just to punitive action regarding the chemical weapons,” said Mr. Ghadbian.

“This should be an opportunity for the international community — especially the Friends of Syria who are committed to democratic change in Syria — to make sure that this is the course [on which] we are going and the departure of Bashar Assad from the scene would open that door in a very meaningful way.”

Friends of Syria is a group that includes the U.S., Arab and European nations, as well as international organizations, that has been working with the opposition coalition.

At a meeting Monday with the core group of the Friends of Syria in Istanbul, opposition representatives were asked whether they were prepared for all consequences of a Western military operation in Syria.

Mr. Ghadbian said his coalition is doing its best.

Help from friends

“We might need some help from our friends and allies,” he said, adding that a substantial amount of this help should come in the form of weapons.

If the United States arms the rebels, it “would definitely narrow the ability of the extremists,” Mr. Ghadbian said.

“We want to work with our friends to make sure there is no power vacuum and the extremists will not take advantage of this,” he said.

In June, the Obama administration, after concluding that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons, authorized arming the rebels. But the rebels have so far not recieved any U.S. weapons, according to opposition sources.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, is expected to release a declassified document within days that includes intercepts of communications between Syrian military personnel discussing the Aug. 21 chemical attack and satellite images showing activity at the regime’s chemical weapons sites around the time of the attack.

The Assad regime has one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, which includes sarin gas, mustard gas and the nerve agent VX. Syrian opposition officials, activists and Western analysts say there is no evidence to suggest that the rebels have chemical weapons or the ability to use them.