Tunis, Tunisia U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton blasted Russia and China as “despicable” for opposing U.N. action aimed at stopping the bloodshed in Syria, and more than 60 nations began planning a civilian peacekeeping mission to deploy after the Damascus regime halts its crackdown on the opposition.
In his most forceful words to date on the Syrian crisis, President Barack Obama said the U.S. and its allies would use “every tool available” to end the bloodshed by the government of President Bashar Assad.
“It is time to stop the killing of Syrian citizens by their own government,” Obama said in Washington, adding that it is “absolutely imperative for the international community to rally and send a clear message to President Assad that it is time for a transition. It is time for that regime to move on.”
Obama spoke as a group known as the Friends of Syria, led by the U.S. and European and Arab nations, met in Tunisia in the latest effort to halt the Assad regime’s nearly year-old suppression of an anti-government uprising.
The group’s actions are aimed at jolting Assad and his allies into accepting demands for a democratic transition, even as they are still unwilling to commit to military intervention.
While the Tunisia conference offered nothing other than the threat of increasing isolation and sanctions to compel compliance from Assad, Clinton went on to predict a military coup inside Syria of the kind that ended the old regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.
“We saw this happen in other settings last year, I think it is going to happen in Syria,” she told reporters at the end of the meeting. “We also know from many sources that there are people around Assad who are beginning to hedge their bets — they didn’t sign up to slaughter people.”
Assad allies Russia and China, which blocked U.N. action on Syria and are eager to head off any repeat of the kind of foreign intervention that happened in Libya, gave no sign they would agree to peacekeepers. Moscow and Beijing have vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions backing Arab League plans aimed at ending the conflict and condemning Assad’s crackdown.