Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lost legitimacy and is "not indispensable," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday as tension soared over an assault by Assad loyalists on the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus.
Clinton condemned the Syrian attacks and said Washington did not believe the long-time Syrian ruler would follow through on his promises to reform in the face of escalating protests against his rule.
"From our perspective, he has lost legitimacy, he has failed to deliver on the promises he's made, he has sought and accepted aid from the Iranians as to how to repress his own people," Clinton told reporters in an appearance with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Washington.
Clinton's comments marked a significant sharpening of U.S. rhetoric on Assad, whose security forces have waged an increasingly brutal crackdown against protesters inspired by pro-democracy movements elsewhere in the Arab world.
Several Assad loyalists broke into the U.S. embassy in Damascus on Monday and security guards used live ammunition to prevent hundreds from storming the French embassy, Western diplomats in the Syrian capital said.
They said the attackers tore down U.S. embassy plaques and tried to break security glass in protests fuelled by the government against a visit by U.S. and French ambassadors to the city of Hama, focus of protests against Assad's rule.
One of the diplomats said: "This is a violent escalation by the regime. You do not bring busloads of thugs into central Damascus from the coast without its consent."
A French foreign ministry official said the Syrian authorities had done nothing to stop the assault.
"(France) reminds (Syria) that it is not with such illegal methods that the authorities in Damascus will turn the attention away from the fundamental problem, which is to stop the repression of the Syrian population and to launch democratic reform," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
France has led Western attempts to pass a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Syria's hierarchy for cracking down on protesters. It says the president has lost legitimacy because of the number of killings to try to quell the protests demanding political freedoms after 41 years of Assad family rule.
"Four buses full of shabbiha (Alawite militia loyal to Assad) came from Tartous. They used a battering ram to try to break into the main door," a resident of Afif, the old district where the French embassy is located, told Reuters by telephone.
The United States, which sees Syria as a fragile but crucial element of any lasting Middle East peace equation, had been reluctant to take that step, but Clinton's comments on Monday indicated Washington's patience had run out.
"If anyone, including President Assad, thinks that the United States is secretly hoping that the regime will emerge from this turmoil to continue its brutality and repression, they are wrong," Clinton said.
"President Assad is not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power."
The United States condemned Syria for "refusing" to protect the embassy from an assault it said had been encouraged by a pro-government television station, and called in a senior Syrian diplomat to deliver a formal complaint.
Meanwhile, a prominent Syrian dissident says the country's opposition will form a shadow government.
Speaking in Turkey, the former judge Haitham Al-Maleh said the aim of this shadow government was to help steer the country towards free elections and a new constitution.
"Each shadow minister will have a portfolio and a team of people working on specific goals," Haitham Al-Maleh said.
"All the Syrian people know that Assad's regime will eventually collapse and therefore we must prepare ourselves."
Arab countries and Western states this month evacuated their embassies in Sanaa following a power grab by the Houthis
A spokesman for Turkey's Foreign Ministry said "Instead of repeating the same baseless and untrue allegations we advise them to support U.N. efforts for political dialogue"
The one-day talks, led by senior diplomats, stem from the decision announced by the two Cold War era foes on Dec. 17 to work to normalize relations
Year 2014 saw China moving away from internationally recognized norms in relation to civil and political rights, despite being urged to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Protesters waved green-and-red national flags and chanted a song whose words included a call to "stand in defence of the constitution".
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Turkish Foreign Ministry has condemned the partial torching of a Greek-Orthodox seminary in West Jerusalem
Muslim organizations in Europe have criticised a new law approved by the Austrian parliament, which aims to revise a historic law on the status of Muslims.
Egypt hopes the conference will bring in some $20 billion worth of investments.
Leading members of the Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad movements led the protest, in which protesters waved Palestinian flags and shouted, "Down with Zionist terrorism"
"Some seem sensitive to this argument," Laurent Fabius and Philip Hammond wrote. "In reality, Bashar represents injustice, chaos and terror. We, France and Britain, say no to all three."
BMKG, Indonesia's meteorological agency, said the quake occurred in the middle of the ocean about 104 km northwest of East Flores.
Peshmerga forces prevent Arabs from returning to their homes in disputed territories claimed by Erbil and Baghdad, according to Human Rights Watch.
The capture of Tel Hamis was announced by the Kurdish YPG militia and confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the country's civil war.
Unidentified militants bombed the home after accusing him of collaborating with the army.