On the first stop of a European tour, Clinton said Russia and China would have to be on board before the U.S. and other nations might engage in what could become a protracted conflict in support of a disorganized rebel force.
Russia, along with China, has twice vetoed U.N. Security Council sanctions against Syria. Russia is Syria's closest ally other than isolated Iran, and Clinton said that without its support the international community is essentially frozen from taking concrete steps to end the violence.
"The Russians keep telling us they want to do everything they can to avoid a civil war because they believe that the violence would be catastrophic," Clinton said, noting that they are "vociferous in their claim that they are providing a stabilizing influence."
"I reject that," she said, complaining that in fact Russia is propping up Assad as his government continues a brutal, 15-month crackdown on dissent in which some 13,000 people have died.
A day earlier, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough said the U.S. is lobbying Russia to distance itself from its ally Syria and to apply pressure on Assad to leave office. A negotiated exit similar to one the U.S. helped broker for Yemen's longtime leader is one possibility, McDonough said, but he offered little optimism that the arguments are gaining traction.
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