Wed, Sep 21, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Russia should back Syria statement: Clinton

THINKING AHEAD:The ‘New York Times’ reports the US is increasingly convinced Assad will be overthrown and is working with Turkey to plan for a post-Assad future

AFP and NY Times News Service, NEW YORK and Washington

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday urged Russia to support a “strong statement” at the UN Security Council over Syria’s crackdown on protests, senior US officials said.

In her talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Clinton expressed “our interest in seeing the Security Council go on record with a strong statement on Syria,” a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.

“The Russians as well are concerned about the situation in Syria, and the violence,” the official told reporters after the two top diplomats held talks ahead of the UN General Assembly opening today in New York.

“The secretary urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to support a strong expression from the Security Council because she doesn’t believe the United Nations Security Council should be silent in the face of such inexcusable violence,” he said.

The official did not say what form the statement should take.

Russia last month proposed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria that would omit Western calls to sanction Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his deadly crackdown on opposition protests, diplomats said.

Another senior US administration official said “the secretary made a strong case for why a Security Council action is necessary this time, given the actions that the Syrian government is taking against its own people.”

“Foreign Minister Lavrov presented his perspective, which was that the best way forward is through dialogue between Assad and members of the opposition,” the official said.

“The secretary encouraged him to think carefully about the role that the Security Council could play in a moment when the Syrian government is killing its own people and imprisoning thousands of people unjustly,” he said.

“I cannot say that the foreign minister agreed to that, but the secretary’s position was unequivocal. It was firm and it’s a position that we’ll continue to advocate to the Russians and others as we go forward,” he said.

“And the Russians did agree during the meeting to continue having the conversation over how the Security Council could act on the situation in Syria going forward,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported yesterday that the US is increasingly convinced Assad will be overthrown and is preparing for a possibly violent aftermath.

In coordination with Turkey, the US has been exploring how to deal with the possibility of a civil war among Syria’s Alawite, Druse, Christian and Sunni sects, a conflict that could quickly ignite other tensions in the region, the Times said.

While other countries have withdrawn their ambassadors from Damascus, US President Barack Obama’s administration officials say they are leaving US Ambassador Robert Ford in place, despite the risks, so he can maintain contact with opposition leaders and the leaders of the country’s myriad sects and religious groups.

State Department officials have also been pressing Syria’s opposition leaders to unite as they work to bring down the Assad government, and to build a new government.

The Obama administration is determined to avoid a repeat of the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq. Although the US did not stint in its effort to oust former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, many foreign policy experts now say the undertaking came at the expense of detailed planning about how to manage Iraq’s warring factions after his removal.

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