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Obama, in meeting with Syria's Jarba, praises leadership in crisis

Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba reacts during a news conference in Moscow February 4, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba reacts during a news conference in Moscow February 4, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama met with Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba on Tuesday and praised the coalition's role in trying to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria, the White House said in a statement.

The meeting came near the end of Jarba's week-long visit to Washington, where the United States officially recognized the Syrian National Coalition as a diplomatic foreign mission and boosted assistance to the group.

"President Obama welcomed the coalition's leadership and constructive approach to dialogue, and encouraged the coalition to further its vision for an inclusive government that represents all of the people of Syria," the White House said.

The group is fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces have made gains recently. Damascus has announced plans for a June 3 election, which U.S. officials have denounced as illegitimate.

The United States boosted non-lethal aid to the moderate opposition by $27 million, bringing total assistance to about $287 million. The United States has also provided $1.7 billion in humanitarian aid to Syria and its neighbors during the crisis, the White House said.

Jarba and his delegation were meeting with Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser, and Obama joined the meeting, the White House said.

"The delegations also discussed the risks posed by growing extremism in Syria and agreed on the need to counter terrorist groups on all sides of the conflict," the White House said.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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