Tony Blair: In Syria, ultimately Assad must go

(CBS News) Syrian President Bashar Assad has maintained a firm grip of power in his country, and the U.S. and its allies seem prepared to leave Assad where he is. However, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday said that ultimately, Assad must go in order to bring peace to Syria.

"He's got to go in the end because there's got to be a transition to a proper form of government," Blair told "CBS This Morning" co-host Charlie Rose. "Syria is 11 percent of the population controlling 100 percent of the power. That's not going to work long term."

That said, Blair warned that there must be a process of "evolutionary change" rather than revolution, in order to avoid chaos and instability.

"If we can manage this process, we have a chance of doing it," he said. "The conclusion will be a new constitution."

Assad's government has violated key provisions of a weak-old cease-fire, assaulting rebels in Homs and dispatching tanks, troops and widely feared plainclothes security agents to patrol the streets. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday "We are at a crucial turning point," where either the cease-fire takes hold or "or we see Assad squandering his last chance before additional measures have to be considered." Clinton and other diplomats will meet in Paris Thursday to discuss the situation.

Blair told Rose it's possible the cease-fire holds and "and it's possible we get a negotiated solution." Still, he said, Assad must eventually let go of power.

Blair said he doesn't expect to see NATO forces on the ground, but he said there could be other actions taken if Assad keeps killing civilians, such as the creation of secure zones to protect Syrian refugees.

"In other words, what I think is important is that we give a message to Assad," he said. "You've got a chance to engage in this process of transition, but if you don't engage, we will ratchet up the pressure."

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