By Julian Pecquet - 12/11/12 12:28 PM EST
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won't participate in an international conference on Syria because of a stomach virus, the State Department announced late Monday.
Clinton was expected to recognize the newly formed Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people during the meeting of the U.S.-backed Friends of Syria in Marrakech, Morocco. Several other countries, including France, Britain and Turkey, have already taken that step.
“In her place, Deputy Secretary [Bill] Burns will travel to Marrakech for the Friends of the Syrian People meeting. We will let you know when she shakes this bug and resumes a public schedule,” Reines added.
The conference is scheduled for Wednesday.
The expected move to recognize the Syrian National Coalition comes as the Obama administration has ramped up efforts to unify the opposition to President Bashar Assad, while excluding Islamist extremists who are also battling the regime. The administration is expected to formally announce on Tuesday its decision to label the Islamist rebel group Jabhat al Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq.