Thursday, 1 November 2012

US calls for Syrian opposition shakeup

AFP

ZAGREB US SECRETARY of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that Washington wanted to help the Syrian opposition unite against President Bashar al Assad’s regime but urged it to resist efforts by “extremists” to hijack the revolution.

“There are disturbing reports of extremists going into Syria attempting to take over what has been a legitimate revolution against an oppressive regime for their own purposes,” Clinton warned during a visit to Croatia.

The opposition should “strongly resist the efforts by the extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution.” Clinton’s comments came as international Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi urged China to help end the escalating conflict that has killed more than 36,000 people since an uprising against Assad’s rule erupted in March last year.

“We are working very hard with many different elements of opposition inside and outside Syria,” Clinton told reporters, saying the United States was interested in “helping the opposition to unite strongly and resist the Assad regime”.

Washington wanted to assist the opposition “to unite behind a shared effective strategy that can resist the regime violence and begin to provide for a political transition”.

The opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Council (SNC) “can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition,” Clinton said.

“They can be part of the opposition, but the opposition must include people from inside Syria and others.” Clinton also called for an opposition “leadership structure” to ensure that all Syrians are represented and protected, adding: “There has to be a representation of those who are on the front line fighting and dying today.” Earlier on Wednesday, Syrian opposition groups, including representatives from the SNC and leaders of the Free Syrian Army, called for a transitional government in exile to be formed to win greater political support from the international community.

But in Paris, Russia warned that the “bloodbath” in Syria would continue if the West stuck to its demand for Assad’s ouster.

“If the position of our partners remains the departure of this leader who they do not like, the bloodbath will continue,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

Fabius also said France and Russia failed to bridge their differences over Assad’s role in any future transition government at a meeting in Paris.

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