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...US steps up support for rebels

Wednesday, July 25, 2012    

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WASHINGTON, USA (AFP) — The United States is stepping up support for the Syrian opposition amid signs events in the 16-month uprising are moving faster on the ground, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday.

After failing to win a UN Security Council resolution on Syria after Russia and China imposed their vetoes, the US is working outside the council to send "a clear message of support for the opposition," she said.

Referring to heavy fighting in the country's second city Aleppo, Clinton said: "We are well aware that the pace of events is accelerating inside Syria."

"We have to work closely with the opposition because more and more territory is being taken and it will eventually result in a safe haven inside Syria which will then provide a base for further actions by the opposition," she said.

But she stressed: "We do believe that it is not too late for the Assad regime to commence with planning for a transition to find a way that ends the violence and begin the serious discussions that have not occurred to date."

A commercial hub and home to 2.5 million people, Aleppo has become a new front in the uprising, after being largely excluded from the violence.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US was working with all its partners to try to "bring unity in a day after" scenario once the Assad regime has fallen.

Because events on the ground were moving fast "our efforts on behalf of a day when Syria can enjoy a democratic future have to accelerate as well," Nuland added.

The US is continuing to provide non-lethal assistance to the opposition to back its 16-month battle to oust Assad.

"We have every reason to believe this will be important in terms of communication principally, but also medical support," Clinton told a press conference after talks with Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

She also urged the Syrian opposition not to engage in any reprisals or retribution against regime figures "that could lead to even greater violence than currently is taking place."

The Syrian National Council has insisted it would not accept a unity government led by a member of the regime and said in a statement that the uprising was "about to achieve victory against the murderous junta in power."

"There was never any question of a national unity government led by a member of the regime," Bassma Kodmani told AFP.

Hours earlier another SNC spokesman, George Sabra, had said the council was ready to agree to a transitional government led by a regime member.

Clinton warned that the opposition "has to be prepared. They have to start working on interim government entities."

"They have to set up humanitarian response efforts that we can also support. They've got to safeguard the chemical and biological weapons that we know the Syrian regime has, and so there's a lot to be done."

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