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US pursuing two-track approach on Syria crisis - Rice

UNITED NATIONS, June 14 (KUNA) -- US Ambassador Susan Rice on Friday said the Obama Administration decided yesterday to arm the Syrian opposition, but is committed at the same time to promote a negotiated political settlement to the Syrian crisis.
"Our aim is a negotiated political settlement. We view the decision taken yesterday (in Washington DC) in response to the use of chemical weapons, and in our efforts to promote a diplomatic solution as two tracks of importance that we are pursuing in parallel," Rice told reporters.
Her remarks were indirectly addressed to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who cautiously criticized Washington earlier in the day for its decision yesterday to arm the opposition as a result of concluding that chemical weapons were used by Damascus against the opposition and civilians in Syria.
He said "the validity of any information on the alleged use of chemical weapons cannot be ensured without convincing evidence of the chain-of-custody, " and "there is no military solution to this conflict, even if both the Government and the opposition, and their supporters, think there can be." Rice told reporters "we think it is vitally important" that we are able to see the two sides come to the table on the basis of the Geneva Agreement reached last June. The Agreement said the two parties must negotiate and establish a transitional governing body with full executive powers on the basis of mutual consent.
In answer to another question, Rice said "what further steps we take will be in function of what we determine as necessary, what advances our principle goal of achieving a negotiated political settlement and what is consistent with US interest." On Hezbollah and Iran's involvement in Syria, she said "we are certainly deeply concerned about Hezbollah's growing involvement as a combatant on the ground in Syria. We think it is a dramatic escalation," adding "we think it is vitally important that foreigners on the ground, particularly Hezbollah and Iran cease." (end) sj.bs KUNA 142303 Jun 13NNNN