Hillary Clinton returned to the White House on Monday and made an unexpected attempt to help Obama re-assert control over his Syria policy.
The former secretary of state had originally been scheduled to make comments at a White House event on illegal wildlife trafficking.
But after a hastily scheduled meeting with Obama, Clinton decided to preface her remarks with a statement on Syria.
"A vigorous and important debate is under way in Congress and around kitchen tables all over America. This is a challenge that has catalysed the kind of debate that I think is good for our democracy. As you know, this is a fluid situation, with statements from Russia and Syria and others in the last several hours."
Clinton gave a cautious welcome to a proposal by Russia that Syria place its chemical weapons under international control. "If the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control, as was suggested by Secretary Kerry and the Russians, that would be an important step. But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction."
She told the audience that despite the apparent confusion over America's readiness for a military showdown with Syria, Obama had in fact achieved his goal of containing Syria. Kerry's remarks about a possible deal on the chemicals weapons were evidence US policy was working, Clinton suggested.
"It is very important to note that this discussion that has taken hold today about potential international control over Syria's stockpiles only could take place in the context of a credible military threat by the United States to keep pressure on the Syrian government as well as those supporting Syria, like Russia," Clinton said in her brief statement on Syria.
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
Original headline: Hillary Clinton: Syria chemical weapons handover would be 'important step'
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