PRESIDENT Barack Obama has met with the Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba and praised the coalition's role in trying to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria.

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

A White House statement said: "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."

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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 US officials have denounced as illegitimate.

The US has boosted non-lethal aid to the moderate opposition and has also provided more than £1billion in humanitarian aid to Syria and its neighbours during the crisis.

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

It added: "The delegations also discussed the risks posed by growing extremism in Syria."