Syria opposition must beware of Islamist 'hijack': Clinton
ZAGREB - Agence France-Presse
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference with the Croatian president after their meetings at the presidency in Zagreb October 31, 2012. AFP Photo
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday 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.
She said Washington's efforts "are focused on pressuring the regime through increasing and tightening sanctions, meeting the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people who are displaced, assisting those countries that they seek refuge in, and helping the opposition unite behind a shared, effective strategy that can resist the regime's violence and begin to provide for a political transition." The opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Council (SNC) "can no be 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." "It is not a secret that many inside Syria are worried about what comes next. They have no love lost for the Assad regime, but they worry, rightly so, about the future. "And so there needs to be an opposition that can speak to every segment and every geographic part of Syria," Clinton said.
Earlier 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.