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Terrorism & Security

US backs new Syrian opposition council in bid to unite rebels

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Syrian National Council could no longer be viewed as the 'visible leader of the opposition.' The group failed to attract broad support from Syrians. 

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"We call it a proto-parliament. One could also think of it as a continental congress," a senior administration official told The Cable. ...

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Europe Editor

Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor.  He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog.  He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.

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"We have to get [the internal opposition] to bless the new political leadership structure they're setting up and not only do we have to get them to bless the structure, but they have to get the names on it," the official said, noting that the exact structure of the council will be determined in Qatar, not before.

"We need to be clear: This is what the Americans support, and if you want to work with us you are going to work with this plan and you're going to do this now," the official said. "We aren't going to waste any more time. The situation is worsening. We need to do this now."

The Washington Post reports that Syrian experts say the plan seems to be aimed at creation of an opposition government, though a US official said that “we’re still quite a ways from that.”

The call by Clinton to reorganize the Syrian opposition came the same day that China announced its proposal for ending the Syrian conflict through political means. Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported yesterday that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, during a visit from United Nations envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, detailed the four-point plan, which calls for creation of a transitional government of "broad representation." It also entails a cease-fire and international humanitarian aid.

But a US official told US News & World Reports that the Chinese plan does not signal any sort of shift in Beijing's support for peace negotiations. The official noted that the plan does not give Mr. Brahimi or any other parties the leverage needed to end the violence in Syria. China has already vetoed several UN Security Council resolutions that would pressure Mr. Assad's regime to end hostilities.

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