U.S. helping 'unify' Syrian opposition

Feb. 22, 2012 at 6:39 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The Obama administration isn't ready to recognize a transitional government in violence-wracked Syria, a White House spokesman said Wednesday.

Jay Carney, press secretary for President Barack Obama, said it would be premature to accede to calls from non-governmental organizations for the United States to recognize the anti-Assad forces as the legitimate leaders of Syria. To do so, he said, would be to "get ahead of the process."

"I think that helping to organize and unify the opposition is something that we are doing in cooperation with our international partners," Carney told reporters in Washington. "This is an entity that is emerging as the brutality of the Assad regime continues, and so I don't have a time frame on if or when something like that would happen."

Carney said it is only a matter of time before Syrian President Bashar Assad is pressured into stepping down and the Obama administration intends to keep working with the international community to accomplish that.

The press secretary said he found it useful to look at what happened in Libya leading up to the ouster and ultimate demise of strongman Moammar Gadhafi. Before there was outside military intervention, he said, there was "a unified international community, a call for intervention by the Libyan people, the prospect of an immediate assault by Gadhafi's forces on an entire city, Benghazi, and the possibility that international military action could have -- could halt that and could limit or prevent the deaths of many, many thousands of Libyans."

"Each country in the region where we have had this kind of unrest is different, and certainly Syria is different from Libya in many of those particulars that I just laid out," he said.

"Right now -- and I was asked this yesterday, and I just want to make clear that we do not believe that adding to the militarization of Syria is the right approach. We believe that the right approach is for the international community to speak with one voice to pressure Assad and get him to relinquish power and to cease the brutal assault on his own people."

Carney said the United States and other nations will work with the Syrian opposition "to help stand them up, to cement its organizational capacity, its unity, so that there is an entity in place as this inevitable transition occurs -- because, as we've said in the past, it's not a question of if, but when Assad gives up the reins of power in the Syria."

He reiterated the administration's stand not to arm the opposition or to establish a safe haven within Syria.

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