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Clinton discloses West's effort to help reshape Syria opposition

October 31, 2012 |  2:48 pm

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Croatia

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration and allies have begun a new effort to reshape the Syrian opposition to give a bigger role to front-line fighters, a smaller one to Syrian exiles, and to exclude entirely the Islamist radicals who have flocked to the war against the government of President Bashar Assad, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters in Croatia, Clinton said the U.S. and allies hope to take a major step in forming a future leadership of Syria at an Arab League-sponsored meeting in Qatar next week that will include a range of Syrian representatives, as well as American, European and Arab officials.

The new opposition leadership must include “a representation of those who are on the front lines, fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom,” she said in an appearance with Croatian President Ivo Josipovic. “This cannot be an opposition represented by people who have many good attributes but have, in many instances, not been inside Syria for 20, 30 or 40 years,” she said in a reference to the Paris-based Syrian National Council.

Clinton said the United States has suggested the names of groups that it believes should be included in the new order, and emphasized the U.S. view that the Syrian National Council “can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition.” The new opposition must be “on record strongly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution,” she said.

The formation of an integrated opposition leadership has been a top goal of U.S. officials, but a frustrating one because of the deep distrust between the opposition fighters in Syria, the exiles, and minority Alawites and Christians who American officials hope to persuade to support a new government.

Clinton said she was disappointed, but not surprised, at the failure of a four-day holiday cease-fire that had been proposed by the new U.N. envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.

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-- Paul Richter

Photo: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives at Zagreb airport in Croatia on Wednesday. Credit: Pool Photo

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