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US ambassador calls for Assad’s ouster in latest shift on Syria policy

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UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
FRANCE 24, April 10, 2017 - UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said in an interview airing Sunday that regime change in Syria is a priority for the US administration, becoming the latest official to articulate an apparent policy shift by calling for Bashar al-Assad’s ouster.
"There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime," Haley said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” that aired on Sunday.
Defeating the Islamic State (IS) group, the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and curtailing Iranian influence in the country are all priorities for Washington, Haley elaborated.
Statements from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over the same 24-hour period emphasized that Washington’s aim is, first and foremost, to defeat IS group militants.
"We believe that the first priority is the defeat of ISIS," Tillerson said, using another acronym for the Islamic State group. The United States will begin seeking a political solution once stability has been returned to key areas of the country."
“Once the ISIS threat has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” Tillerson said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that also aired on Sunday.
"We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions," he said, noting that Assad representatives would need to be present for any such talks.
And yet speaking on Thursday, Tillerson called for "a political process that would lead to Assad leaving", adding that Assad should play “no role” in governing Syria.
"Assad’s role in the future is uncertain, clearly, and with the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people," he said.
On a trip to Turkey in late March, Tillerson said that the "longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people", remarks that marked an about-face from longtime US policy under former president Barack Obama that Assad’s departure was a prerequisite to peace.
Haley’s most recent statements also mark a departure from comments she made herself late last month. Speaking to reporters on March 30, Haley had said regime change was “no longer” Washington’s primary concern.
"Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out," Haley told reporters. "Do we think he’s a hindrance? Yes," she said. "Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No."

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