Merkel, Monti Urge Syrian Opposition to Prepare to Assume Power

European leaders' statement comes after French President Francois Hollande said earlier this week he would recognize a Syrian provisional government once formed by opposition.

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the Syrian opposition on Wednesday to unite and get ready to assume power if President Bashar Assad's regime falls.

She spoke after talks in Berlin with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.

"We see it as desirable that the Syrian opposition be ready for a takeover of responsibility and develop as much mutuality as possible," Merkel told reporters.

Monti said: "We recognize the full legitimacy of the Syrian National Council (SNC) as contact partner," adding that "this is the most important and most representative voice of the Syrian opposition."

A day earlier, a group of 45 mainly exiled Syrians issued a roadmap for a new democratic government after meetings hosted by Germany. The SNC, as well as groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, took part in drafting the strategy paper.

French President Francois Hollande indicated Monday he was willing to recognize a provisional Syrian government if the opposition formed one, but other Western leaders have been more cautious.