News / Middle East

Clinton: Syria Engaging in 'Horrific' Attacks Against Own People

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves on arrival at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, June 11, 2011.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves on arrival at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, June 11, 2011.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Syria is engaging in what she calls "horrific" attacks against its own people, but the international community is not currently considering military action against the government in Damascus because regional leaders are working behind the scenes to resolve the crisis.

Secretary Clinton says the international community is concerned about what is going on in Syria as thousands of refugees cross into Turkey. But there are no plans at present to act militarily against President Bashar al-Assad because, unlike Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Clinton says there is not a regional consensus against Syria.

"Syria, for example, is engaging in horrific, revolting attacks on its own people," said Clinton.  "The region, however, is trying to, behind the scenes, get the government to stop. And they believe that that at the time is the best way to go forward. So we listen very closely to what people in the neighborhood, in the region say."

Secretary Clinton spoke in an interview with the television channel Africa 360 in which she was asked to explain how the international community decides to intervene militarily. She said the ongoing NATO campaign against Gadhafi came from both the Arab League and the United Nations.

"We knew that he had an incredible military capacity, so when the Arab League asked the United Nations to act, that was a very significant development," added Clinton.

Secretary Clinton says there is no guidebook for justifying military intervention, but there are certain factors to consider.

"When there are situations that develop where the region itself says, 'This is unacceptable. We have to do something.' Or in Cote d'Ivoire where the United Nations was there to try to keep peace and unfortunately former President Gbagbo was intent upon waging war," Clinton added.

Secretary Clinton is in Tanzania for talks with President Jakaya Kikwete before traveling to Ethiopia for an address Tuesday at the African Union.

State Department officials traveling with the Secretary say Libya will feature prominently in those remarks. They admit that African nations are divided over the revolt against the Gadhafi government, but the Obama administration is encouraged that all three African members of the U.N. Security Council - Nigeria, Gabon, and South Africa - voted for the resolution authorizing military force, and the leaders of Senegal and Mauritania have now joined calls for Gadafi to leave power.

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