WASHINGTON The United States is considering blacklisting a radical Islamist Syrian rebel group suspected of ties to al Qaeda, U.S. officials said on Wednesday ahead of an international meeting next week on aiding the Syrian opposition.
U.S. officials confirmed that Jabhat al-Nusra, a small but influential rebel group that has advocated an Islamic state in Syria, was under review for blacklisting. It has been accused by other rebel factions of indiscriminate tactics.
Formal announcement of the U.S. move could come at next week's Friends of the Syrian People meeting in Morocco, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to throw stronger U.S. support behind the new opposition coalition battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
U.S. officials have stressed their concern over the rising influence of extremist elements in Syria's bloody civil war, and a formal inclusion of Jabhat al-Nusra on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations would mark a symbolic effort to sideline it as a future player.
U.S. blacklisting freezes any assets that the group or its members have in U.S. jurisdictions, and prohibits Americans from giving the group material support.
The State Department said Wednesday that Clinton would attend the Friends of Syria meeting in Marrakech on Dec 11-13 as part of a regional tour that will also take her to Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
Most analysts expect Clinton to use the meeting to announce that the United States will recognize the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people - a diplomatic upgrade intended to buttress the group and it seeks to prepare for a post-Assad Syria.
(Reporting By Andrew Quinn and Mark Hosenball. Editing by Warren Strobel and Jackie Frank)