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Clinton says Russia, China should 'pay price' over Syria (+video)

At Paris meeting, US Secretary of State Clinton lambasted Russia, China for 'blockading' progress. The meeting came amid news that a top Syrian general has defected.

By Staff writer / July 6, 2012

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, right, speaks with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius during a meeting , in Paris, Friday, July 6. Syrian opposition leaders are pressing diplomats at an international conference for a no-fly zone over Syria, but the US and its European and Arab partners are expected to focus on economic sanctions instead.

Brendan Smialowski/AP

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Paris

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used an international bully pulpit in Paris to urge some 100 international diplomats to “reach out” to Russia and China and “demand they get off the sidelines” of the Syrian crisis.

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“I don’t think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all for standing up for the Assad regime,” Ms. Clinton said in a “Friends of the Syrian People” meeting held this morning in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

Yet Moscow and Beijing “should pay a price,” Mrs. Clinton said in strong tones to the French-hosted meeting, “they are holding up progress and blockading it.”

The meeting comes amid the defection of leading Syrian Gen. Manaf Tlass, commander of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Republican Guard, and whose father headed the Syrian Defense ministry for more than 20 years. French officials said the general was en route to Paris.

Yet in Paris, with Syrian cities under siege, with Russia and China not in attendance, and with the UN observer mission of Kofi Annan suspended for two months, it is unclear whether the Paris group can do much more than offer marginal help and moral support.

Moment of silence

The international delegates stood for a minute of silence called by France's President François Hollande to honor the Syrian victims of what Mr. Hollande called a “tragedy of bewildering proportions.” Hollande said fervently in opening the meeting that “Bashir al Assad must go … a transitional government must be set up,” repeating a call from similar meetings in Tunis and Istanbul this spring.

The Syrian regime’s “fall is inevitable,” Hollande said, and Clinton described “a steady and inexorable path toward ending this regime.”

Syrian opposition members here called for humanitarian corridors and a “no-fly zone” to bring in aid and establish means to build a new country and free civilians from what opposition figure Rima Fleyhane called “a Mafia state that only wants to hold onto power.” She said that some 1.5 million Syrian civilians are displaced.

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