The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 7, 2012

U.S. works with Russia on Syria, but wants Assad out

(Continued)

The 40-minute meeting with Lavrov and Brahimi immediately seemed to ease some of the tensions between the U.S. and Russia over how best to address Syria's bloody, 21-month civil war. Through much of the conflict, the former Cold War foes have argued bitterly. The U.S. has criticized Russia for shielding its closest Arab ally. Moscow has accused Washington of meddling by demanding Assad's downfall.

Clinton said nothing that suggested either government had changed its position. But with rebels fighting government forces on the outskirts of Syria's capital and Western governments warning about possible chemical weapons deployment by the Assad regime, Clinton emphasized the importance of taking another shot at a peaceful transition deal.

Diplomatic efforts are needed to gauge "what is possible in face of the advancing developments on the ground which are increasingly dangerous not only to Syrians, but to their neighbors," Clinton said, in an apparent reference to Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, which has become the focus of Western nervousness about the civil war.

Brahimi said after the talks that he would put together a peace process based on a political transition strategy the U.S. and Russia agreed on in Geneva in June. At that time, the process quickly became bogged down over how the international community might enforce its conditions.

But instead of addressing the plan's shortcomings, Clinton stressed its continued value, saying it would commit any future Syrian authority to democratic principles and international human rights standards.

Clinton also said the strategy would have to mean the end of the four-decade Assad regime — a contentious point with Moscow, which has insisted that Syria's leadership is not for the United States or any other outside party to decide on.

"The United States stands with the Syrian people in insisting that any transition process result in a unified, democratic Syria in which all citizens are represented — Sunni, Alawi, Christians, Kurds, Druze, men, women. Every Syrian must be included," Clinton told reporters. "And a future of this kind cannot possibly include Assad."

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