Clinton to Syria Opposition: Assad Ouster Not Enough to Ensure Democratic Rule

U.S. Secretary of State urges exiled leadership to advocate rule of law in the war-torn country; State Department announces return of U.S. envoy to Damascus.

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Syrians must not only remove President Bashar Assad but also advance towards the rule of law, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday.

"A democratic transition includes more than removing the Assad regime. It means setting Syria on the path of the rule of law and protecting the universal rights of all citizens regardless of sect or ethnicity or gender," Clinton said as she began a meeting with Syrian opposition members in Geneva.

She said the opposition understood that Syrian minorities needed to be reassured that they would be better off "under a regime of tolerance and freedom."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meeting with a small group of expatriate Syrian opposition members in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011.Credit: AP

Clinton's comments came after earlier Tuesday the U.S. State Department said it was reinstating American ambassador to Syria, after the security situation there had forced him to withdraw from the country for safety reasons several weeks ago.

"Ambassador Robert Ford has completed his consultations in Washington and is returning to Syria," spokesman Mark Toner confirmed.

The United States brought Ford home from Damascus for consultations on October 24 following a number of threats and an alleged campaign of incitement against Ford in Syrian state media.

Ford's status had remained unclear for weeks, with State Department officials earlier saying he would return to the embassy in time for the Thanksgiving holiday on November 24, but the deteriorating security situation there had kept him from meeting that deadline.

Ford would deliver the United States' message to the Syrian people, report on the situation on the ground and engage with a cross section of Syrian society "on how to end the bloodshed and achieve a peaceful political transition," Toner said.

"We believe his presence in the country is among the most effective ways to send the message that the United States stands with the people of Syria."

Also on Tuesday, the official Syrian news agency SANA said Syrian border guards blocked an infiltration attempt from Turkey by about 35 "armed terrorists."

SANA said some of those who came over the border were wounded and escaped back to Turkey where they received aid from the Turkish army.

The wounded were transported in Turkish military vehicles, SANA said.
Relations between Syria and Turkey have disintegrated since the government of President Bashar Assad began using force to suppress a popular revolt.

Turkey has said a buffer zone may be required on its 900-km border with Syria if the violence causes a mass exodus of Syrians fleeing the cities.

A rebel Free Syrian Army of defectors and Assad opponents is believed to be smuggling fighters and weapons into Syria from Turkey to launch attacks on Assad's forces.

"The border guards forces suffered no injuries or losses. They warned they would stop anyone who even thinks of touching Syria's security or its citizens," SANA said.

Read this article in Hebrew: קלינטון נפגשה עם נציגי האופוזיציה הסורית; "הפלתו של אסד אינה מספקת"



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