Clinton says Syrians need reassurance

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Syria’s opposition to promise protection to minorities if President Bashar al-Assad is ousted.

This content was published on December 6, 2011 - 18:16 and agencies

Clinton met six members of the opposition Syrian National Council in Geneva on Tuesday. She said it was imperative for minorities to understand that a new regime would be an improvement for them.

“A democratic transition includes more than removing the Assad regime. It means setting Syria on the path of the rule of law and protecting the universal rights of all citizens regardless of sect or ethnicity or gender,” Clinton said.

Assad is a member of the Alawite minority sect, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam. In contrast, most Syrians are Sunni Muslims. Some Alawites, Christians and other minority groups worry that their rights will not be protected if Assad is replaced by an opposition including Sunni Muslims.

“We will discuss the work that the Council is doing to ensure that their plan is to reach out to all minorities to counter the regime's divide-and-conquer approach, which pits ethnic and religious groups against one another,” she said.

The United States has repeatedly called on Assad to step down after his government began cracking down on the Arab Spring revolution eight months ago.

According to the United Nations human rights chief, more than 4,000 people have died in the violence.

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