By Justin Sink - 02/25/13 07:45 PM EST
White House press secretary Jay Carney responded Monday to reports that the Syrian regime had signaled a willingness to negotiate with rebels fighting for the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying that the country's "future cannot include" the dictator.
"He has so much blood on his hands, he has been engaging in a prolonged assault at his people … the future for Syria cannot include Assad," Carney said.
But at a State Department briefing on Monday, spokesman Patrick Ventrell questioned the sincerity of the Syrian offer.
"If they're serious, you know clearly they can communicate that to the U.N. special representative -- something which we understand they haven't done," Ventrell said.
Sheik Moaz al-Khatib, Syria's main opposition leader, has not yet responded to Moualem's remarks.
Ventreil's comments echoed remarks made earlier Monday by Secretary of State John Kerry, traveling in London for the first stop of a nine-nation tour.
"It seems to me that it's pretty hard to understand how, when you see the Scuds falling on the innocent people of Aleppo, it is possible to take their notion that they are ready to have a dialogue very seriously," Kerry said, according to Reuters.
Kerry also said the Obama administration was continuing to consider its "obligation to innocent people," an indication that Washington continued to weigh the possibility of arming the rebels. The president has so far shied away from American involvement in the conflict, expressing concern that arming the rebels could further escalate the conflict or lead to American weapons finding their way to enemies of the U.S. or Israel.
The offer comes as the Syrian opposition is weighing attendance at an 11-nation summit in Rome later this week that would include Kerry. On Monday, the secretary of State encouraged the rebel leaders to consider engaging in the peace talks, despite a fresh wave of missile attacks last week on rebel-held areas of Aleppo.
"We are not coming to Rome simply to talk," Kerry told reporters in London. "We are coming to Rome to talk about next steps."