Russia, Syrian opposition slam US calls for new leadership against Assad

Russia joined Syria's main exiled opposition group on Friday in accusing the Obama administration of picking and choosing the people it wants to run Syria if President Bashar Assad falls.

The comments come after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said the United States will propose its own list of individuals and organizations as part of a multinational conference in Doha, Qatar, next week aimed at trying to create a unified rebel front. Clinton said the main exiled opposition group, the Paris-based Syrian National Council, was made up of people who haven't been in the country in decades and does not represent the various groups currently fighting on the front lines against Assad.

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The Syrian National Council denounced Clinton's statement on Friday, the Agence France-Presse wire service reported.

“Any discussions aimed at passing over the Syrian National Council or at creating new bodies to replace it,” the group said in a statement, “are an attempt to undermine the Syrian revolution by sowing the seeds of division.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry also lambasted the United States, the AFP reported, saying Clinton's comments violated an agreement reached with Russia and others over the summer to support a transition government approved by the Syrian people. 

“We heard direct orders [from the United States] about what the Syrian opposition should do to form a 'government in exile,' and about who should join such a government – up to specific people," the Russian ministry's statement said. “They are bluntly making clear that they see the Syria conflict being settled exclusively on their terms.”

The United States is expected to back a new coalition, called the Syrian National Initiative, during the meeting in Doha. The initiative is being pushed by Syrian dissident Riad Seif, a former member of parliament and businessman who has put forward a plan for a new leadership council.