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Romney: Lack of White House leadership has prolonged Syrian civil war

During the third and final debate between Romney and President Obama, the GOP hopeful claimed the administration was squandering a key strategic opportunity in Syria due to the country's close ties to Iran.  

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"This should have been a time for American leadership," in terms of helping coalesce the various rebel factions fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad, Romney said. 

"America can help make that happen," Romney said. 

The administration's focus on ratcheting up diplomatic pressure on the Assad government while supporting Syrian rebels via regional allies will lead to the longtime Syrian leader's ouster without drawing the United States into another war in the Mideast, Obama said.

'We are doing exactly what we should be doing," the president added. 

That coalition-heavy approach was the blueprint the White House and Pentagon followed in Libya in support the NATO-led operation to remove former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Obama said. 

Taking a shot at the GOP challenger, the president claimed Romney argued for a rapid end to U.S. involvement in Libya before Gadhafi was pushed out from Tripoli. 

Obama said Libyans, and Syrians now, "want to be sure we finish the job," but in a tempered, strategic way that will ensure radical Islamic groups will not fill the likely power vacuum after Assad is out of office.

In response, Romney said he does not believe that U.S. forces on the ground will be needed in Syria to end the war. 

That said, a Romney said his White House would ensure America was at the forefront of establishing "very effective leadership" to make sure a post-Assad Syria would be an ally not an enemy of the U.S.