- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday said she is “not surprised by the failure” of the latest cease-fire between Syrian military forces and rebel factions seeking the ouster of President Bashar Assad.

“The Assad regime did not suspend its use of advanced weaponry against the Syrian people for even one day,” said Mrs. Clinton, who had backed last week’s efforts by U.N. and Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to get both sides to agree to a four-day truce.

News reports Wednesday cited activists in Syria as saying Assad regime warplanes loyal were pounding opposition strongholds in areas around the capital city of Damascus, as well as in the nation’s north.

Following the failed cease-fire, Mr. Brahimi traveled this week to Russia and China as part of an ongoing attempt to widen international pressure for Mr. Assad to relinquish power.

Both Moscow and Beijing have stood with the Syrian leader during the past year by vetoing U.N. Security Council actions against his government. On Wednesday, China held to what some observers have called a position of vague neutrality toward in conflict.

Chinese state media reported that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who metWednesday with Mr. Brahimi, supports a “political resolution” to the Syrian conflict and urges all parties involved to “begin political transition at an early date.”

The state media report, however, made no specific mention of Mr. Assad.

Mrs. Clinton, meanwhile, said the U.S. supports Mr. Brahimi’s effortsbut is not pinning much hope on them at this point. “While we urge special envoy Brahimi to do whatever he can in Moscow and Beijing to convince them to change course and support stronger U.N. action,we cannot and will not wait for that,” she said.

“Instead, our efforts, and those of our partners in the EU and the Arab League, are focused on pressuring the [Assad] regime through increasing and tightening sanctions,” said Mrs. Clinton, who made the remarks in response to a reporter’s question during an diplomatic visit to Croatia.

The U.S. and others are pushing to address the humanitarian crisis stemming from Syria’s conflict, which according to some estimates has killed some 36,000 people since March 2011, Mrs. Clinton said.

She added that U.S., European and Arab partners are “working very hard with many different elements from the opposition – yes, inside Syria, as well as outside Syria” and have “facilitated the smuggling-out of a few representatives of the Syrian internal opposition in order for them to explain to the countries gathered why they must be at the table.”

“This cannot be an opposition represented by people who have many good attributes but have, in many instances, not been inside Syria for 20, 30, or 40 years,” she said. “There has to be a representation of those who are on the frontlines, fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom.”

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