Clinton warns Russia its Syria policy risks civil war
COPENHAGEN - Agence France-Presse
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton smiles during a forum with students at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark, Thursday May 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Saul Loeb, Pool)US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday criticised Russia's resistance to UN action on Syria, warning that its policy could contribute to a civil war.
The Russians "are telling me they don't want to see a civil war. I have been telling them their policy is going help to contribute to a civil war," she told a mainly student audience on a visit to Copenhagen.
Clinton warned that unless unchecked, the deadly violence in Syria could lead to civil war or even develop into a proxy war because of Iran's support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
She said she had spoken on Wednesday with the international envoy on Syria, Kofi Annan, who is trying to expand his mandate to be able to deal more effectively with Damascus.
"We have to bring the Russians on board because the dangers we face are terrible," said Clinton, who is in Denmark on the first leg of a Scandinavian tour.
She said the absence of UN support for action in Syria, due mainly to Russia's opposition, "makes it harder" to respond to the crisis, as the international community did last year in Libya.
"The continued slaughter of innocent people, both by the military and by militias supported by the government and increasingly by the opposition... could morph into a civil war in a country that would be riven by sectarian divides, which then could morph into a proxy war in the region.
"Remember you have Iran deeply embedded in Syria -- their military are coaching the Syrian military. The Quds Force, which is a branch of the military, is helping them set up these sectarian militias.
"We know it actually could get much worse than it is," she said.
A massacre last week of more than 100 people in the city of Houla, allegedly by government-backed forces, and the discovery of new execution-style killing since then has raised the pressure for international action.
But Russia has adamantly refused to go against its close ally Syria with President Vladimir Putin warning Thursday that Moscow will not change its position under pressure.
"Russia's position is well-known. It is balanced and consistent and completely logical," Interfax quoted Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.
Meanwhile, an April 12 peace plan and truce negotiated by Annan to bring an end to the violence appeared in tatters, amid reports of fresh attacks by Syrian government forces on Houla, the site of last week's massacre.
Syrian rebels have warned they will resume their defence of civilians if the government does not return to the peace plan by Friday.