Secretary Clinton Says Syrian President Assad 'Must Go'
International envoys met in Istanbul to discuss Syrian bloodshed, aid to rebels
April 1, 2012 -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that, despite a newly-brokered cease fire agreement with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, his days as president are numbered as his forces continue the bloody clash with Syrian opposition groups.
"We think Assad must go," Clinton told ABC today after attending the one-day Friends of the Syrian People conference in Istanbul. "The sooner the better for everyone concerned."
But she added that the process must be multi-pronged.
The UN-Arab League peace plan and cease fire negotiated last week by envoy Kofi Annan is a good beginning, she said, but Assad has yet to stop the violence.
"There has to be a timeline," Clinton said regarding the diplomatic process. "It can't go on indefinitely."
Representatives of more than 60 countries attending the conference pledged financial assistance to the Syrian Free Army, the main opposition group, in an effort to encourage further defections from Assad's forces.
Clinton said the United States has agreed to pledge an additional $12 million for a total of $25 million in aid and to provide communications equipment to help the Syrian Free Army organize.
She met with the Syrian National Congress today to discuss how to document evidence of the atrocities for future investigations or trials in international criminal courts. A sanctions working group was also created to target those who are helping Assad.
While some Arab countries have urged western nations to arm Syrian rebels, Clinton said the United States is trying to balance its support of opposition groups without raising expectations that can't be met.
"We do have a stake in what happens in Syria, we just have to be thoughtful about how we pursue our role," she told ABC.
And in response to reports of the growing reach of al Qaeda in Syria, Clinton said: "The vast majority of the people who are standing up against the horrific assaults of the military machine in Syria are ordinary citizens defending themselves and their homes."
"We want to send a very clear message to the people inside Syria ... that the international community stands with you and we want to see an inclusive democratic Syria where members of every ethnic group, every religion are given a chance to be full citizens," she said.