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Syrian opposition leader warns of mass starvation

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Syrian opposition leader warns of mass starvation
Syrian National Coalition President Hadi al-Bahra and Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard met in Copenhagen on Friday. Photo: Simon Læssøe/Scanpix
14:41 CET+01:00
The leader of the moderate Syrian opposition was in Copenhagen on Friday to meet with Denmark’s foreign minister, Martin Lidegaard.
Syrian National Coalition President Hadi al-Bahra and Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard met on Friday to discuss Denmark’s continued support of the Syrian opposition and the possibilities of finding a political solution that could end a civil war that has now been ravaging Syria for nearly four years. 
 
“At today’s meeting we discussed the developments [in Syria] and the possibilities for greater cooperation between the opposition coalition’s political leadership, which is based in Turkey, and the armed opposition groups, that are still on the ground in Syria. It is essential for the opposition’s solidarity and impact that there is closer coordination between the political and military factions,” Lidegaard said. 
 
At a short press conference following the meeting, al-Bahra was more focused on immediate needs in Syria rather than long-term solutions. 
 
The opposition leader said that cuts to UN food aid for 1.7 million Syrian refugees amounted to "an execution order" overseen by the international community.
 
"This amounts to an execution order for killing 1.7 million people under famine, especially during this harsh wintertime," al-Bahra said.
 
"Sixty percent of them are children and women and we don't understand as Syrians how the international community would allow starving 1.7 million under their watchful eyes," he added, visibly emotional.
 
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) was forced this week to cut off food aid to 1.7 million Syrian refugees due to a $64 million (385 million kroner) shortfall in funding from donors.
 
The agency has launched a social media campaign to try to convince 64 million people to donate $1 each in a desperate bid to come up with the cash needed to feed the Syrian refugees.
 
The Syrian National Coalition is considered by the US and other key powers to be the main body representing the opposition, but it has little power inside Syria where disparate militant groups outside its control hold sway.
 
The exiled group's leader said a US-funded plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels would take months to implement and that the anti-regime Free Syrian Army (FSA) would have to look for funding elsewhere in the meantime.
 
"It is expected to start by the end of February or the end of March which is a very long time to leave the Free Syrian Army at current levels of assistance," al-Bahra said.
 
"So they have to find a way of increasing the help and equip part of the programme to start earlier," he added.
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