Syrian President Bashar Assad appears in a clip from an interview with private television network Dunya, aired on Aug. 28, 2012. / Dunya/Youtube
WASHINGTON The Obama administration says it is aware that several countries in the Middle East and elsewhere have informally offered to grant asylum to Syrian President Bashar Assad and his family if they leave Syria.
The State Department said Wednesday it couldn't vouch for the sincerity of the offers and noted that they raise serious questions of accountability for abuses committed by the Assad regime. But spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. is convinced that Assad must leave and cannot play any role in Syria's future.
Toner added that the United States believes Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi is currently in London. If Makdissi defected, Toner said it would be another sign the regime is "crumbling" and that members of Assad's inner circle are realizing that the end is near.
Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says NATO's decision to send Patriot missiles to Turkey is a clear message to Syria: Turkey is backed by its allies.
Clinton says the Patriots are solely for defensive purposes. But she says Damascus should take it as further evidence of the U.S. and its allies' resolve.
"We've made our views absolutely clear to the Syrians, to the international community, through various channels, public, private, direct, indirect, that this is a situation that the entire international community is united on," Clinton said.
Speaking at NATO Wednesday, she also reiterated concerns that "an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons" or lose control of them to militant groups.
She said both scenarios cross a red line and those responsible would be held accountable.
Clinton said the U.S. and its partners would seek to apply additional pressure on Syria's government at a conference next week in Morocco.
She said the Assad regime must end its violence.