WASHINGTON — The United States reiterated Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should step down after a row over comments by newly appointed UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
"We don't think there's going to be peace in Syria until Assad steps down and the bloodshed ends. We will be clear with special envoy Brahimi about our views on this," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
But Nuland renewed US support for the veteran Algerian diplomat, saying that the United States has worked well with him in the past.
"This is an extremely difficult job and we would welcome any support that he can bring to the international community's efforts to get back" to a plan on ending the violence and political transition, she said.
In an interview with Reuters news agency, Brahimi -- named on Friday to replace Kofi Annan who quit -- was reported to have said it was too early for him to follow his predecessor in saying Assad must quit.
The opposition Syrian National Council said it was "shocked and dismayed" by the remarks.
Brahimi later clarified his comments, saying that he was not judging a resignation by Assad to be premature but rather: "What I have said is that it's early for me to say anything related to the content of this issue."
Assad's government also criticized Brahimi, with the foreign ministry on Monday denying his remarks that Syria was in civil war and saying that such a view "is found only in the head of conspirators."
Brahimi, 78, was the UN envoy in Afghanistan before and after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.
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