Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 4, 2013

US, Saudi present united front on Syria, Iran

(Continued)

Kerry did announce last week that the U.S. would for the first time provide rebel fighters in the Free Syrian Army with non-lethal assistance — rations and medical assistance. European nations like Britain and France are expected to soon send the rebels defensive military equipment and Kerry has said the totality of the aid could be enough to change the situation on the ground.

"The United States will continue to work with our friends to empower the Syrian opposition to hopefully be able to bring about a peaceful resolution, but if not, to increase pressure on Assad," Kerry said. He added that Assad "is destroying his country — and his people in the process — to hold onto power that is not his anymore."

Kerry is in Saudi Arabia on the seventh leg of a marathon nine-nation dash through Europe and the Middle East on his first overseas trip as secretary of state. During his trip, members of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany met in Kazakhstan with Iranian officials in the latest bid to get Iran to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful and not a cover for atomic weapons development.

That meeting ended in an agreement for further expert-level discussions between the sides and both Saud and Kerry said it was critical for Iran to accept offers made by the so-called "P5+1" group quickly. Kerry reminded the Iranians that President Barack Obama has vowed not to allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon and that he has kept all options, including military options, on the table to prevent that from happening.

The window of opportunity for a diplomatic solution "cannot by definition remain open indefinitely," Kerry said. "There is time to resolve this issue providing the Iranians are prepared to engage seriously on the P5+1 proposal. But talks will not go on for the sake of talks and talks cannot become an instrument for delay that will make the situation more dangerous," he said.

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