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Clinton: Syria relinquishing chemical weapons would be 'important step'


If Syria were to surrender its chemical weapons to international control, it would be "an important step" toward avoiding military consequences, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday.

Following a meeting with President Barack Obama, Clinton suggested that the situation in Syria was "fluid," nodding to an offer by Russian diplomats to organize the handover of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons to an international governing body.

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks about the situation in Syria after meeting with President Barack Obama at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on September 9, 2013.

“If the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control, as was suggested by Secretary Kerry and the Russians, that would be an important step. But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction, and Russia has to support the international community's efforts sincerely, or be held to account.”

Clinton further noted that the prospect of some sort of diplomatic breakthrough to avoid military intervention in Syria was the chief consequence of Obama’s threats of attack.

Clinton added: “it’s important to note that this discussion that has taken hold today about potential international control over Syria’s stockpiles only could take place in the context of a credible military threat by the United States to keep pressure on the Syrian government, as well as those supporting Syria, like Russia.”

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks about the situation in Syria after meeting with President Barack Obama, saying three points are at the heart of the decision on whether the US will proceed with a military strike.

Clinton’s words come amid an all-out push by the Obama administration to win congressional approval for a resolution seeking authorization to launch attacks against Assad’s regime. The White House has particularly suffered from defections from liberal Democrats, who express many of the same misgivings about involvement in Syria as they did in opposition to the war in Iraq a decade ago.

As the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 – and as Obama’s top diplomat during the president’s first term – Clinton’s words offer both strong insight into the administration’s current calculus, and offers political cover for wavering Democrats to back Obama’s Syria resolution.

In her brief remarks before a previously planned speech about wildlife trafficking, Clinton echoed the president’s own words about Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons, saying the act “violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order.” Clinton said the use of such weapons "demands a strong response from the international community, led by the United States."


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