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Clinton blasts Russia, China, predicts Syria coup

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sits next to British foreign minister William Hague, left, at the start of the Conference on Syria in Tunis, Tunisia, Friday Feb. 24, 2012. The birthplace of the Arab Spring is hosting a landmark conference on Syria by high-level U.S., European, Turkish and Arab League officials. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sits next to British foreign minister William Hague, left, at the start of the Conference on Syria in Tunis, Tunisia, Friday Feb. 24, 2012. The birthplace of the Arab Spring is hosting a landmark conference on Syria by high-level U.S., European, Turkish and Arab League officials. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)
By Matthew Lee and Paul Schemm
Associated Press / February 24, 2012
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TUNIS, Tunisia—U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton blasted Russia and China on Friday for opposing U.N. Security Council action on Syria, calling it "despicable," and predicted an internal coup in the Arab nation.

Clinton said she would be willing to go back to the U.N. as often as needed, "but we need to change the attitude of the Russian and Chinese governments."

She said that members of Syrian President Bashar Assad's own security forces would overthrow him if forced to continue targeting civilians. Many rebel soldiers already have defected to the opposition's side.

"We also know from many sources that there are people around Assad who are beginning to hedge their bets -- they didn't sign up to slaughter people," she told reporters at an international conference in Tunisia aimed at persuading Assad and his allies into accepting demands for a democratic transition and allow in humanitarian aid.

"Their refusal to continue this slaughter will make them heroes in the eyes of not only Syrians, but people of conscience everywhere," she said.

Clinton noted that in several other cases over the past year, militaries have stepped in to remove unpopular leaders, as happened in Tunisia and Egypt.

"We saw this happen in other settings last year, I think it is going to happen in Syria," she said.

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