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Syrian opposition at "crucial juncture" -- US envoy

WASHINGTON, April 11 (KUNA) -- The United States and international allies need to aid Syria's opposition coalition as it faces a "crucial leadership juncture" and counter rising extremism inside embattled Syria., U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said late Thursday. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing alongside, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones and Assistant Secretary of Treasury Daniel Glaser, Ambassador Ford told lawmakers that U.S.-backed opposition groups in Syria are "the best opportunity we have to isolate extremists." "There is absolutely an extremist problem in Syria, and it is incumbent on the Syrian opposition coalition and the supreme Syrian military council to isolate those extremists. "I don't think it will be easy to isolate those extremists but there is an opportunity to contain the sectarian divisions with the outreach from both the political opposition as well as the Syrian supreme military command," Ford said. He stressed the visions of a future Syria outlined by the U.S.-backed opposition stresses equality, inclusiveness and religious and ethnic tolerance. The testimony comes a day after al-Qaeda in Iraq announced it was joining forces with extremist's elements across the border in Syria. March was the deadliest month of the two-year conflict with over 6,000 Syrians killed and more than 70,000 civilian fatalities since the conflict began, according to the latest estimates. More than four million people have been internally displaced and more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees. According to U.S. officials, these figures could triple within the year. State department officials affirmed the U.S. is working to aid the displaced, offering more than USD 385 million in assistance to displace populations within Syria and across the region. (end) hy.gb KUNA 120052 Apr 13NNNN