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US admits Bashar al-Assad will outlast Barack Obama

Leaked adminstration document says Syrian president will not step down before at least March 2017 – more than five years after Mr Obama called for him to leave

The US government privately accepts that Bashar Assad will still be in power when Barack Obama leaves the White House, according to a leaked internal document.

A timeline prepared for American officials and obtained by the Associated Press offers March 2017 as the earliest possible date for Mr Assad to give up his position as president and for his inner circle to leave. That would be more than five years after Mr Obama first called for the Syrian president to quit, and two months after the American president steps down.

The State Department said on Wednesday the timeline was prepared late last year as a guide for John Kerry, Secretary of State, and other American diplomats as they worked on a political transition for Syria.

John Kirby, a spokesman, described the document as a “staff-level think piece” that is “preliminary and pre-decisional” and not “an official position.”

He also said it was “not an accurate projection of plans by the international community to effect a political transition in Syria”.

However, the document reflects details of a plan negotiated in Vienna in November for a ceasefire followed by a new constitution and a transitional government. Elections for a president and new government would eventually come in August 2017.

Mr Assad’s role remains uncertain. Russia says he should be allowed to compete in elections, something the US wants to rule out. The timeline offers no explanation for exactly how Mr Assad would leave or what his post-presidential future might hold.

In any case, efforts to implement the plan and end five years of war remain beset by difficulties.

And Mr Assad refuses to relinquish power while a terrorist threat to his nation, in the form of rebel groups and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, persists.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/12086159/US-admits-Bashar-al-Assad-will-outlast-Barack-Obama.html

 

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