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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

U.S. Skeptical About al-Assad's Reconciliation Initiatives

RIA Novosti

04:40 08/02/2012 WASHINGTON, February 8 (RIA Novosti) - The United States fears that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s national reconciliation initiatives will lead to nothing, a Department of State spokeswoman said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday held talks with Assad in Damascus to seek resolution of the Syrian crisis. He also said after the talks that Assad will declare a date in the near future for a referendum on a new constitution for his country.

“The international community as a whole would be pretty skeptical if, instead of focusing on ending the violence, what we seem to have is a re-upping of this same offer that Assad has been making for months and months and months,” Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.

“Frankly, how that gets us to the kind of peaceful national dialogue about a democratic future for Syria that we all want to see is not very clear,” she went on.

Nuland refused to comment on Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s recent visit to Syria, saying that “the Secretary and the Department will obviously reserve judgment until the Secretary has a chance to consult with Foreign Minister Lavrov after he gets back to Moscow.”

Meanwhile, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said Russia “must realize that betting everything on Assad is a recipe for failure - not just for Russia’s interests in Syria, but for the stability of the region and for Syria’s future.”

He added that the United States considered sending “humanitarian aid” to Syrians.

“We are exploring the possibility of providing humanitarian aid to Syrians and we are working with our partners, again, to ratchet up the pressure, ratchet up the isolation on Assad and his regime,” Carney said.

Asked if the U.S. could start arming the opposition, Carney said: “We are not considering that step right now.”

The statement comes hours after Senator John McCain said U.S. should "start considering all options, including arming the opposition.”

Human rights groups say more than 7,000 people have died in Syria since the uprising began in March last year. The government says around 2,000 members of its security forces have been killed in the unrest.

Russia is one of Assad’s firm supporters during the uprising against his regime. Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, backed by the Arab League and Western nations, to prevent the repetition of “the Libyan scenario.”

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