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Clinton: UN Must Be On 'Right Side of History' On Syria

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Feb. 1, 2011.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Feb. 1, 2011.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the U.N. Security Council faces a historic choice between supporting the Syrian people or what she calls the dictatorial regime of Bashar al-Assad. Russia appears willing to consider revisions of an Arab League call for action against Damascus.

As U.N. ambassadors negotiate the language of a draft resolution on Syria, Secretary Clinton said the U.S. recognizes that action requires continued dialogue with all partners on the Security Council, including Russia and China.

Russia and China both oppose U.N. action that they say could be used as a pretext for military intervention against President Assad.

At Tuesday's opening meeting on Syria, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said it is not in the Security Council's charter to determine the outcome of domestic political disputes. Moscow does not want the U.N. to fall into that habit because Churkin said the Security Council would then be deciding which prime ministers should step down.

On his way into Wednesday's talks, Ambassador Churkin told reporters that supporters of action against President Assad appear uncertain about what they want.

I think they said it quite clearly even in the open session, that they believe that the text which is there does not really fully or accurately reflect what they are trying to achieve," said Churkin. "So we’ll see if there are clarifications of what they are trying to achieve, which would be something which would make it easier for us to look at it.”

Secretary Clinton said the Arab League goal is clear: ending the violence and beginning a peaceful political process that will bring a more democratic future to Syria.

“Every member of the Council has to make a decision: Whose side are you on? Are you on the side of the Syrian people? Are you on the side of the Arab League? Are you on the side of the people of the Middle East and North Africa who have during this past year spoken out courageously and often for their rights? Or are you on the side of a brutal, dictatorial regime?," said Clinton.

Clinton said each country will have to make its own decision. But as members of the Security Council trying to help keep international peace and security, she said it is “absolutely imperative that we all be on the right side of history.” For the United States, Clinton said that means standing with the Arab League and with the people of Syria.