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Hillary Clinton, at 'Friends' meeting, has encouraging words for Syria rebels

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The meeting suffered from the glaring absence of Russia and China. Their joint veto of UN Security Council action on Syria earlier this month continues to limit the possibilities and effectiveness of international intervention. Some countries lay responsibility for Syria’s mounting violence and death toll at Russia’s feet, with France in particular declaring that Assad has interpreted the veto as “a license to kill.”

What happened on the margins of the "Friends" meeting was, in some ways, as important to Syria’s future as what in the general sessions. British Foreign Minister William Hague announced his country’s recognition of the Syrian National Council, the opposition umbrella group, before he met with the council’s president, Burhan Ghalioun. Secretary Clinton also met with Mr. Ghalioun.

Saying Britain’s intent is to “intensify our links with the opposition,” Mr. Hague said a number of countries “will now treat them and recognize them as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

In her comments to the meeting, Clinton described the Syrian National Council (SNC) as “a leading legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change” and as an “effective representative for the Syrian people with governments and international organizations.”

But she also hinted at US frustration with the inability of Syria’s disparate opposition forces to unite under one representative transitional coalition, as the opposition in Libya did. Clinton praised the SNC for “articulating a plan for the future” but added that the US is looking for “the full range of opposition groups and individuals in Syria, including representatives of all ethnic and religious minorities, to come together around that common vision” for Syria’s political transition.

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