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Monday, September 26, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Obama reaching out to Muslim Brotherhood
in Syria; Pro-West opposition protests

WASHINGTON — The administration of President Barack Obama has been quietly consulting with the Islamic opposition in Syria.


Senior U.S. officials have been meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood as well as its lobbyists in the United States. They said the two sides have convened several times over the last three months to discuss the Brotherhood's role after the ouster of President Bashar Assad.

"We ask the U.S. and international community to put an end to bloodshed and send Bashar Assad to the International Criminal Court," Susan Misto, a board member of the Syrian American Council, said.

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The Reform Party in Syria has protested the administration's meetings with the Brotherhood. RPS, regarded as one of the most pro-Western elements in the Syrian opposition, said Washington was signaling its endorsement of the Brotherhood's goal to make Syria into an Islamic state rather than a democracy that would foster its large minority community of Alawites, Christians and Kurds.

"This ill-advised policy of the U.S. State Department will have dire consequences, not only for the future of Syria, but also through an immediate increase in violence and the strengthening of the Assad base," RPS said on Sept. 23.

On Sept. 24, the council, regarded as a lobbyist for the Brotherhood, held a meeting in Anaheim, Calif. to discuss a post-Assad Syria. The session was addressed by U.S. special envoy Frederic Hof, responsible for U.S. policy on Damascus.

"As Syrian-Americans we stand in solidarity with the peaceful protestors in Syria who are giving their lives daily in the pursuit of freedom and liberty," Ms. Misto said.

This marked at least the second session between the State Department and the Brotherhood in as many months. The first meeting was headed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and excluded members of the secular Syrian opposition.

Hof was said to have met Najib Ghadban, a member of the Syrian National Council and a political science professor at the University of Arkansas. The meeting was endorsed by the Brotherhood-aligned Council on American-Islamic Relations.

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