WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton endorsed President Barack Obama’s attempt to win congressional approval of a military strike in Syria, saying yesterday that any move by the Assad regime to surrender its weapons to international control would be an “important step.”
Clinton met with Obama at the White House as the administration sought to sway skeptical lawmakers in Congress to approve a plan to punish Syria’s government for last month’s chemical weapons attack. The former first lady offered her first public statements on the Syrian crisis, adding her voice to a series of Obama allies who have supported the military action.
“I will continue to support his efforts and I hope the Congress will as well,” Clinton said at a forum on wildlife trafficking, an issue that was one of her priorities at the State Department.
Clinton noted that Secretary of State John Kerry had suggested a new proposal that would have Syria turn over its stockpiles but she said “the international community cannot ignore the ongoing threat of the Assad regime’s stockpiling of chemical weapons.”
“Now if the regime immediately surrenders its stockpile to international control as was suggested by Secretary Kerry and the Russians that would be an important step. But this cannot be another excuse for delay and obstruction and Russia has to support the international community’s efforts sincerely or be held to account,” she said.
“The world will have to deal with this threat as swiftly and comprehensively as possible,” Clinton added.
Clinton has largely avoided weighty foreign policy issues since leaving the State Department in February but her backing of Obama’s plan could help persuade wary Democrats considering the administration’s plan to use force in Syria in the aftermath of President Bashar Assad’s alleged use on chemical weapons.