Hillary Clinton calls for Syrian opposition shake-up

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The State Department on Wednesday struggled to explain how it reconciled Clinton's statement with the administration's repeated stance that only Syrians can decide who their future leaders will be.

“We've talked all along that we need to prepare for the day after, because Assad is going to eventually fall,” spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday. “And so part of the spadework that we've been doing ... has been working with the opposition ... to include those who are on the ground, those who are taking the risks, who are fighting the fight.”

“When we talk about identifying or sharing names, I think what's clear is that we're just talking about trying to build a more cohesive — but also more expansive — opposition that includes those within Syria as well as outside of Syria. This isn't about us telling them; it's up to the Syrians ... themselves to choose a leadership structure.”

Syria featured in the third presidential debate last week, when Republican candidate Mitt Romney accused Obama of being hamstrung by his decision to seek the U.N. Security Council's support. China and Russia have vetoed three efforts to sanction Assad's regime.

“We are playing the leadership role,” Obama retorted. “We organized the 'Friends of Syria.' We are mobilizing humanitarian support and support for the opposition. And we are making sure that that those we help are those who will be friends of ours in the long term and friends of our allies in the region over the long term.”