Hillary Clinton: Russia’s Syria offer could be ‘important step’

Breaking her recent silence on Syria, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared on Monday that Russia’s proposal to put Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal under international control could be “an important step” but warned that it cannot be “another excuse for delay or obstruction.”

“The Assad regime’s inhuman use of weapons of mass destruction against men, women and children violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order and therefore it demands a strong response from the international community led by the United States,“ Clinton said.

Clinton, speaking at a White House forum on battling illegal trafficking in wildlife, said she had just come from a meeting with President Barack Obama. Her remarks were her first since Syria's alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on Assad's opposition.

“If the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control,” as proposed by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia, she said, “that would be an important step.”

“But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction — and Russia has to support the international community’s efforts sincerely or be held to account,” she said.

Echoing top Obama aides, Clinton underlined that the discussion over the Russian-backed proposal “only could take place in the context of a credible military threat by the United States to keep pressure on the Syrian government as well as those supporting Syria, like Russia.”

The issue of American military action is a delicate one for the former New York senator, who is widely reckoned to be the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016: Her 2008 bid faltered in part because of her support for the war in Iraq.