Clinton: Too many concerns over arming Syrians

As Syrian forces continue their assault on the besieged city of Homs, the international community is still searching for ways to provide tangible relief for those under assault.

Over the weekend, officials from the U.S. and other countries - dubbed the "friends of Syria" - met in Tunisia and demanded an end to the violence. But they haven't agreed on just how to stop Syrian President Bashar Assad from killing his own people.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CBS News she is "deeply distressed" for civilians under attack in cities like Homs and touted the success of the weekend conference, which she said is notable because many countries, including those in the Arab League, were "speaking with one voice." But the Obama administration has thus far resisted requests by Arab countries and by U.S. lawmakers like Sen. John McCain to begin the full-scale armament of the Syrian dissidents.

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"What are we going to arm them with and against what? We're not going to bring tanks over the borders of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan," Clinton said.

Another administration concern is that weapons might go to al Qaeda.

"We know al Qaeda [leader Ayman al-] Zawahiri is supporting the opposition in Syria. Are we supporting al Qaeda in Syria? Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?" Clinton said. "If you're a military planner or if you're a secretary of state and you're trying to figure out do you have the elements of an opposition that is actually viable, that we don't see. We see immense human suffering that is heartbreaking."

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Watch Wyatt Andrews' complete interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at left.

Clinton also harshly described the Russian and Chinese governments for vetoing a Security Council resolution that would have condemned the Syrian leader.

"You look at Russia, China and Iran, who are in there determined to keep Assad because he does their bidding. He buys their arms, he sells them oil. Ah, this is as clear a contrast between the values that the world now is embracing and the past."

Last week, the administration ramped up the pressure on Assad, threatening "additional measures" if he doesn't stop the violence. But he hasn't and every day the slaughter goes on, the Obama administration will likely face more pressure to do more.

Watch Wyatt Andrews' full report in the video player above.

  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.

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