U.S. opposes French proposal for Syria
Hollande calls for rebels to form own provisional government
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration expressed opposition to French President Francoise Hollande’s call for the Syrian opposition to quickly form a provisional government, saying it was premature when the opponents to Syrian President Bashar Assad are still so fractured.
American officials said Monday the French announcement wasn’t coordinated with other nations that have been working on a diplomatic solution to the civil war and that the U.S. wouldn’t echo Hollande’s proposal any time soon. In what was billed as a major foreign policy address, Hollande said the fractured Syrian opposition should form a provisional government, which France would be prepared to recognize over Assad’s regime.
The Obama administration on Monday also decried the death of more than 300 people in Damascus’ suburbs over the weekend, including civilians killed at point-blank range and others as they were lining up to buy bread.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said 150 people were killed in a single location in fighting on the outskirts of the Syrian capital. She said some were killed point-blank “in the most brutal way at the hands of the regime,” and that the U.S. death toll was based on information from its contacts within the Arab country.
Despite the escalating violence, Nuland did not endorse Hollande’s proposal. American officials called it premature to speak about a provisional government when Syria’s fractured opposition hasn’t even agreed yet on a transition plan. And they cited persistent disagreements among the Syrian National Council and rival opposition groups, and between Syrian opposition figures campaigning outside the country and rebels fighting the Assad regime on the front line.
“We’re nowhere near that yet,” one U.S. official said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Nuland warned about increasing numbers of Syrian refugees fleeing to Turkey, Jordan and other neighboring states. They now number 80,000 in Turkey.
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