"We've made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime," Obama said in an interview with the ABC television network.
He described the move as a big step.
In a summary of the interview posted on its website, ABC news said the move did not include a decision to provide weapons to the Syrian rebels but opened the door to that possibility in the future.
The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNCROF) was formed on November 11 in Doha, Qatar and proclaimed itself the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Its legitimacy has since been recognized by the European Union and the United Kingdom.
"Obviously, with that recognition comes responsibilities," Obama said. "To make sure that they organize themselves effectively, that they are representative of all the parties, [and] that they commit themselves to a political transition that respects women's rights and minority rights."