U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed the Syrian regime and those that support it as she wrapped up on Sunday a three-day, pro-democracy tour of a politically transformed North Africa.
Speaking in the Moroccan capital Rabat, Clinton denounced the “brutal attacks” taking place in Syria and said soldiers who back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were dishonoring themselves.
“The longer you support the regime’s campaign of violence against your brothers and sisters, the more it will stain your honor,” she said, adding those renouncing violence would be viewed as heroes.
Clinton’s comments came at the end of a three-day tour of the North African countries Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, a region of former French colonies sometimes referred to as the Maghreb.
The nations featured to varying degrees in the Arab Spring uprisings of 2010 and 2011 that led to broad reforms and the toppling of a string of long-standing dictators across the Arab world.
“So much has changed since my last visit (but) what has not changed is our commitment to our friendship,” Clinton said after talks with her Moroccan counterpart Saad Eddine Othmani.
She was referring to a new constitution adopted in July at the behest of King Mohammed VI, and to legislative polls that followed in November, won by moderate Islamists.
The Arab Spring also led to other drastic shifts including the lifting of a 19-year-old state of emergency in Algeria, the overthrow of Tunisia’s president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya.
But 11 months of popular struggles in Syria have seen increasingly violent crackdowns on protests by Assad’s security forces. More than 7,600 people have been killed, rights groups say, and on Saturday alone another 72 civilians were slain, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Clinton said the international community’s strategy in the Syria crisis should follow three guidelines: “Providing immediate humanitarian assistance; increasing the pressure on the Assad regime; and helping to prepare for a democratic transition.”
Clinton on Friday travelled to Tunisian capital Tunis for a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” aimed at increasing pressure on regime.
Tunisia became the first country in the Arab world to protest its leaders in what would become the Arab Spring. Protests started after a vegetable seller set himself on fire to protest corruption.
Clinton on Sunday also addressed a deadly snafu in Afghanistan, where six days of violent protests have left at least 30 people dead following the burning of copies of the Koran in a disposal burn pit in a U.S. military base.
“We deeply regret the incident ... but we also believe that violence must stop and the hard work for building a more peaceful and secure Afghanistan must continue,” she said in Rabat.
A government source said two U.S. advisors who were shot dead Sunday by an Afghan colleague had been mocking the protests.
NATO responded by pulling all its advisors out of Afghan government ministries on a day that also saw a protester killed and seven U.S. soldiers wounded in a grenade attack on their base in northern Afghanistan.
President Hamid Karzai’s government and NATO forces have appealed for calm and restraint, fearful that Taliban insurgents are trying to exploit the anti-American backlash.
Clinton’s North African tour began in Tunis on Friday when she took part in a “Friends of Syria” international gathering.
In Algerian capital Algiers on Saturday, Clinton met with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, urging Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco to maintain the momentum of the democratization brought about by the Arab Spring by deepening reforms.