Syrian rebels near the town of Maraat al-Numan
Syrian rebels line a dirt escarpment as they look towards army positions south of Maraat al-Numan on November 17. Washington is weighing what further help it can give the Syrian opposition rebels, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday, without spelling out if they would win full US recognition. © John Cantlie - AFP/File
Syrian rebels near the town of Maraat al-Numan
AFP
Last updated: November 30, 2012

US mulling further help for Syrian rebels, says Clinton

Washington is weighing what further help it can give the Syrian opposition rebels, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday, without spelling out if they would win full US recognition.

"We are going to carefully consider what more we can do," Clinton told a Washington forum, saying the United States was constantly evaluating the situation and adding: "I'm sure we will do more in the weeks ahead."

"If this were a straightforward challenge I think we would all have reached a conclusion and have unified behind exactly what we are going to do, and how to do it," she told a conference organized by Foreign Policy magazine.

But she stopped short of saying whether the United States would recognize the newly-formed Syrian National Coalition, which is seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad, as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

"For a long time the Syrian opposition was not able to present anything resembling a unified, coherent vision for what a future post-Assad Syria could look like," she recalled.

"We have been deeply involved in helping to stand them up," she said of the new body which emerged from talks in Qatar, after much US prodding.

On November 13, France became the first Western state to recognize the new body as the sole representative of the Syrian people and it was swiftly joined by Britain. Spain also joined their ranks on Thursday.

Clinton said no decision had yet been made on changing the US position, but that she would have more to announce ahead of the next Friends of the Syria meeting in Morocco in mid-December.

Privately, US officials have said the Obama administration will likely go ahead and recognize the council at some point.

Publicly, however, the administration says it is still monitoring the group to ensure that it is as broadly representative as possible of all those groups inside Syria seeking to oust Assad.

"This remains a difficult situation to manage because there are so many interests by all of the players," Clinton told the forum.

"It remains extremely complex. We are doing what we can to support the opposition, but also to try to support those inside Syria particularly in the local councils who are committed to ... continuity and Syrian governmental institutions so we don't see a collapse and a disbandment."

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