DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — To the outrage of Syria's embattled government, the opposition coalition leader formally took its vacant seat at an Arab League summit meeting Tuesday and immediately requested broader recognition, including from the United Nations, as part of an effort to further ostracize President Bashar Assad.
The decision to grant the Arab League seat to the Syrian opposition coalition, recommended by the Arab League's foreign ministers at a meeting this month, was considered a symbolic but important milestone in the Syrian conflict.
The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in November 2011 in reaction to Assad's repression of political protests, which have evolved into a civil war that has left 70,000 people dead and millions displaced.
"Syrian people alone should determine who rules the country," the leader of the opposition delegation, Mouaz al-Khatib, said at the Arab League summit meeting in Doha, Qatar.
Earlier, Assad's government reacted harshly in anticipation of the move by the Arab League.
"Shame on you, Arab brothers," said the pro-Assad newspaper Tishreen in Damascus, according to a translation by Agence France-Presse.
Using the Arab League as a new perch of legitimacy, Al- Khatib said the opposition now wanted "the seat of Syria at the United Nations and at other international organizations."