Syrian govt scoffs at new opposition alliance

DAMASCUS - Not long after Syrian dissidents united in hopes of gaining global credibility, the Syrian government slammed the new coalition, saying any effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad will be futile.

"There is no power in this entire world that can defeat Syria because we have a valiant military and our noble people believe in our cause," Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said, according to the state-run Tishreen news agency. "Defending Syria is a national destiny and not a political option."

He also described dissidents outside Syria as "nothing but an empty bubble."

"The opposition abroad is clinically dead and they are in a state of turmoil," al-Zoubi said.

The latest insults in the Syrian civil war came days after opposition factions formally agreed in Qatar to unite as the new National Coalition Forces of the Syrian Revolution.

After 20 months of relentless turmoil, rebel forces have not had a unified vision for the country or single military plan to oust al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for more than four decades. The United States and Arab nations pressured the groups to get on the same page.

The new coalition agreed that it wants al-Assad gone and that no one would talk with his government. Spokesman Mohammed Dugham said the only option now is a totally new government.

Despite the opposition's unification efforts -- and in light of the government's defiance -- the bloody civil war rages on.

At least 48 people died Tuesday, including 41 people in the Damascus region, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.

The U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday it is working to provide aid to residents who have fled Syria.

"The number of Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration throughout the surrounding region has now surpassed 407,000 and continues to climb. There are tens of thousands more Syrians around the region who have not registered. Many are expected to come forward for registration and assistance in the coming weeks as winter sets in and their resources run out," the agency said.

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