In a departure from earlier official statements, the United States has said it cannot accept Syrian President Bashar al-Assad running in future elections.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made the remarks during a news conference held on Monday at the UN Headquarters in New York City to mark the US presidency of the UN Security Council for April.
She was asked about US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments made in Turkey last week. “I think the longer term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people,” Tillerson said.
Haley, who herself said on Thursday the US is no longer interested in removing the Syrian leader, changed her tone on him on Monday, saying it does not mean Washington will accept Assad participating in future elections.
She said the Syrian people don’t want him in power, and went on to describe Assad as a war criminal and a long-time hindrance to peace.
“It’s that we don’t think the people want Assad anymore; we don’t think that he is going to be someone that the people want to have,” Haley said.
“We have no love for Assad. We’ve made that very clear. We think that he has been a hindrance to peace for a long time. He’s a war criminal. What he’s done to his people is nothing more than disgusting,” she said.
This is while the White House stressed on Friday that the US must understand the “political reality” in Syria and accept the future of Assad is for Syrians to decide.
“There is a political reality that we have to accept in terms of where we are right now,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.
The latest remarks by the US diplomat are in line with the position of the administration of former President Barack Obama, which made any resolution of the Syrian crisis conditional on President Assad’s stepping down.