US lawmakers urge support for Syrian opposition

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama should abandon his policy of engaging Syria and stand foursquare behind opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, lawmakers urged Wednesday.

Republican Senator John McCain and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman said Obama’s effort to engage rather than shun Damascus had “little to show for it” and declared it was time to back protesters against Assad’s rule.

“A new Syria strategy is now needed — one that aligns the United States with the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Syrian people for their future,” said the senators.

“We also urge the administration to work with members of the international community to make clear to President Assad that if he continues on the path of repression and violence, it will carry serious consequences,” they said.

McCain, who is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, praised the Obama administration for condemning Assad’s crackdown on protests and said Washington must “continue to speak out loudly and clearly” against Assad’s regime.

“The United States must stand unambiguously with the Syrian people at this pivotal moment,” they said.

Number-two Republican Senator Jon Kyl, a fierce critic of Obama’s efforts to engage Syria, said Washington should call for Assad to step down and called for US Ambassador Robert Ford to “investigate” attacks on protesters.

Kyl also blasted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for saying recently that lawmakers who visited Syria recently had described Assad as a “reformer.”

Kyl accused Assad of “affronts to the vital national security interest of the United States,” citing Syrian activities in Lebanon, alleged cooperation with North Korea to develop a nuclear program, and support for Hezbollah and Hamas.

“We must learn from our mistakes, and President Obama and the Secretary Clinton must promptly call for Assad to step down and pledge to support the legitimate Syrian opposition,” said Kyl.

© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license

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