News / Middle East

US Denies Trying to Undermine Syrian Government

A Syrian protester flashes the victory sign during a protest calling for President Bashar Assad to step down in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, April 17, 2011.
A Syrian protester flashes the victory sign during a protest calling for President Bashar Assad to step down in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, April 17, 2011.

The United States on Monday denied working to undermine the Syrian government, but it acknowledged trying to strengthen civil society groups there.  The comments followed a press report suggesting that U.S. funds had gone directly to Syrian opposition factions.

State Department officials say U.S. efforts to build up civil society in Syria are similar to programs underway in other countries, but that the difference is that the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad perceives them as subversive.

The comments came in response to a Washington Post  report on Monday citing leaked U.S. diplomatic cables as saying that the State Department has been secretly financing Syrian opposition groups.

The newspaper said it received the cables from the activist Website WikiLeaks, whose disclosure of apparent U.S. diplomatic cables since late last year has complicated U.S. relations with several countries.

The leaked documents are said to have asserted that U.S. money has been channeled to Barada TV, a cable outlet set up by Syrian exiles with close ties to the London-based anti-Assad Movement for Justice and Development.

At a news briefing, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner repeated the Obama administration’s policy of refusing comment on the authenticity of the alleged leaked documents.

But he said the United States, which maintains diplomatic relations with Syria, is not trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. "We are not working to undermine that government.  What we’re trying to do in Syria, through our civil society support, is to build the kind of democratic institutions, frankly, that we’re trying to do in countries around the globe," he said.

Toner likened the Syria program to U.S. help to civil society and non-governmental organizations in Eastern Europe in the 1990s.  But he said the difference is that the Assad government, "sees this kind of assistance as a threat to its existence."

The State Department says it has allocated more than $7 million to civil society-building programs in Syria since 2005, although The Washington Post said leaked cables indicate that the spending is considerably more.

The Obama administration came into office advocating engagement with the Syrian government and returned a U.S. ambassador to Damascus for the first time since 2005.

But in recent days, the United States has become increasingly critical of the Syrian government’s harsh treatment of demonstrators.

Toner said Monday that the demonstrations were "legitimate protests in the face of years of oppressive governance by the Assad regime" and that it is incumbent on the Damascus government to address the "universal aspirations of their people."

He stopped short of calling for a transition of power in Syria, saying that it is up to the people of the country to dictate the pace and scope of reform.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid