PARIS - French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe met and shook hands with a Syrian opposition leader in Paris on Monday, but stopped short of granting the movement recognition during a symbolic public encounter in Paris, saying it was too soon.
France -- the first Western country to recognize Libya's opposition in March -- has become an unofficial champion of Syria's opposition after months of a bloody crackdown against pro-democracy protests, leading calls for a U.N. Security Council resolution to condemn the violence.
As Syria's main opposition group, the National Council, asked for wider recognition in Stockholm, Juppe met its chairman in Paris and exchanged a warm handshake.
"I am here to express the support of France for the Syrian people who are trying to fight for freedom and their rights," Juppe told reporters.
However, asked if the meeting was a sign that France was nearing recognition of the Council, Juppe said that formal recognition was not yet under consideration because the opposition group was still being formed.