Syrian opposition meets with Clinton

Syrian opposition meets with Clinton

Syrian opposition meets with Clinton

Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez (4L) poses with a delegation of the Syrian National Council. AFP photo

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met members of the Syrian opposition in Geneva late yesterday in a gesture of support in the face of an ongoing eight-month crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Clinton told the group she wants to hear their plans to establish a new democratic government in Syria, Associated Press reported.

Clinton stressed the need for a post-Assad Syria to protect minorities, ethnic groups and women as she met here Tuesday with Syrian opposition leaders, Associated Press reported. She told them, “Obviously, a democratic transition is more than removing the Assad regime. It means setting Syria on the path of the rule of law.” The seven activists are exiles in Europe and belong to the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC).

“We intend not to ask for American help yet, but we will ask for support if a U.N. resolution comes to the Security Council against the Syrian regime,” SNC Executive Committee Member Abdulbesat Seida told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

“However, we will first have to hear what Ms. Clinton has to say to us; perhaps it will be something we must listen to,” he said.

Turkey denies armed movements near border

The U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford will return to Damascus later yesterday, a U.S. official said, six weeks after he was withdrawn because of threats to his safety, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Syria says it has blocked 35 “armed terrorists” from entering the country after a clash along the border with Turkey.

The state-run news service said yesterday that several of the gunmen were wounded and the group fled back into Turkish territory.The head of a growing group of Syrian army defectors is based in Turkey. The group is believed to be smuggling weapons and fighters into the country through the border.

Syria’s deadly crackdown on dissent has destroyed the country’s once-close ties with neighboring Turkey.

“We’ve repeatedly said Turkey does not direct armed groups,” diplomatic sources in Ankara told the Hürriyet Daily News. “After looking into these claims, we can say that no military movement has been observed on the other [Syrian] side of the border.”

Thousands of Syrian refugees have taken shelter in Hatay there since the Syrian uprising began nearly nine months ago, the Associated Press reported. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited witness reports that 34 bodies were dumped in the streets of Homs late Dec. 5.