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U.S. Seeks Syria Opposition Revamp

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling for changes in the leadership of Syria's opposition.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling for changes in the leadership of Syria's opposition.
By RFE/RL
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States wants to see changes in the leadership of Syria’s opposition.

Clinton said the time has come to move beyond the leadership of the exile-led Syrian National Council (SNC) and bring in representatives of Syrians who are “fighting and dying” in the conflict against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

"We've made it clear that the SNC can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition," she said. "They can be part of a larger opposition, but that opposition must include people from inside Syria and others who have a legitimate voice that needs to be heard."

Clinton noted that some members of the exiled opposition have not been inside Syria for more than 20 years.

Reports say U.S. officials have grown frustrated with the failure of the SNC to muster a robust program to unify the disparate opposition groups that have been waging the battle against the regime for the past 19 months.

With fighting continuing to rage, Clinton’s words suggest that the United States is intensifying its efforts to organize the opposition to oust the Assad regime.

Clinton’s comments come after the collapse of the latest cease-fire proposal, brokered by international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, aimed at halting violence that pro-opposition activists say has claimed upward of 35,000 lives.

Upcoming Arab League Meet

The United States, which says it has provided support to the rebels but no weapons, is allied with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar in calling for the removal of Syria’s Alawite-minority regime.

Russia, China, and Iran have resisted moves for increased international intervention to bring about the regime’s downfall.

In her remarks on October 31 during a visit to Croatia, Clinton said the opposition leadership needed to represent all Syrians in order to ease fears about possible sectarian domination in a post-Assad Syria.

"We also need an opposition that will be on record strongly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution," Clinton said. "There are disturbing reports of extremists going into Syria and attempting to take over what has been a legitimate revolution against an oppressive regime for their own purposes."

Clinton said an upcoming Arab League-sponsored meeting in Qatar would be an opportunity to secure agreement on broadening the anti-Assad coalition.

"The Arab League-sponsored meetings starting in Doha next week will be an important next step," Clinton said. "I have been constantly involved with my counterparts, both in the EU and in the Arab League, in particular with the host of the meetings next week in Qatar. We have recommended names and organizations that we believe should be included in any leadership structure."

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 31 said it was up to the UN Security Council to decide whether international forces should impose a no-fly zone over Syria in order to weaken the government's ability to strike at rebel forces.

Veto-holding UN powers China and Russia have blocked three Western- and Arab League-backed draft Security Council resolutions aimed at pressuring the Syrian regime.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP

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