Does U.S. want Syria's president out?

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Hillary Clinton speaks to Katie Couric, May 19, 2011.
CBS

In a speech outlining his vision for the Middle East Thursday, President Obama singled out Syrian President Bashar Assad for his crackdown on protesters. The administration has hit him with new sanctions to pressure him to bring about reform, but is the real goal to force him out? Katie Couric put that question to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just after the president spoke.

Couric: Is the Obama administration now ready to call for Syria's president to leave?

Clinton: Obama was very clear. And what we want is to continue to support the voices of democracy, those who are standing against the brutality. But we're also well aware every situation is different. And in this one, Assad has said a lot of things that you didn't hear from other leaders in the region, about the kind of changes he would like to see. That may all be out the window, or he may have one last chance.

Couric: At the same time, you know, this Syrian regime is close to Iran. They're getting support from Iran to -- for their tactics of suppression, if you will. Their -- they support terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. So, why not just say he needs to be removed?

Complete transcript: Hillary Clinton, May 19

Clinton: Well, you're right that Iran is supporting them, and we're calling them out on it. But I think we also know -- that there are many different forces at work in Syria. And we think it would be better if the people of Syria themselves made it clear to Assad that there have to be changes.

Couric: The whole notion of regime change isn't working very well in Libya, is it?

Clinton: I disagree with that. I think we are seeing slow, but steady progress. The pressure on the Qaddafi regime has increased to the point that Qaddafi's wife and daughter fled -- across the border into Tunisia in the last two days. The oil minister has defected. So, we're making progress. I wish it would go faster. They certainly wish it would go faster. But we're on the right path.

Couric: Why does the killing of civilians in Libya justify U.S. military involvement, but the killing of civilians in Syria does not?

Clinton: There's no "one size fits all" and there's no magic wand. If there were, we'd be waving it like crazy. And in Libya, what we had was a unique international coalition. What we're seeing now is increasing pressure on Syria. We're seeing -- the European Union taking actions. Us upping the actions. And I think you'll see more in the days to come.

Couric: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has become more insulated. The Obama administration has been criticized for not working hard enough to move the ball forward in the pre-peace process. Fair criticism?

Clinton: Not at all fair. And what the president said today was, "We want to see negotiations." But we're -- we're not able to -- you know, make those negotiations happen. But we know that without negotiations, there will be no end to the conflict. No end to the claims. And no two state solution.

Couric: When it comes to harboring Osama bin Laden, I know you're trying to find out what did they know, when did they know it, and who knew. Clearly someone did. What is the U.S. going to do about Pakistan?

Clinton: We believe that -- it was not -- proven that anybody at the top of the government in Pakistan knew where Bin Laden was. But it seems likely that somebody did know. I said that the first time I went to Pakistan. I said it's hard to believe that somebody in your government somewhere, and it could be some very low level person, doesn't know where he is.

And we're having, you know, very candid conversations with -- our Pakistani partners. But we expect more. We're having conversations about what more we can do together.