U.S. says political solution to Syria conflict in jeopardy

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The use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces and the involvement of Hezbollah fighters show President Bashar al-Assad's lack of commitment to negotiations and threaten to “put a political settlement out of reach,” the U.S. State Department said on Saturday, citing comments by Secretary of State John Kerry.

The State Department issued a statement after Kerry spoke with Iraq's foreign minister.

“The secretary reaffirmed that the United States continues to work aggressively for a political solution with the goal of a second Geneva meeting, but that the use of chemical weapons and increasing involvement of Hezbollah demonstrates the regime's lack of commitment to negotiations and threatens to put apolitical settlement out of reach,” the department said.

A U.S. official said on Thursday that President Barack Obama had authorized sending U.S. weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time.

Regarding Kerry's telephone call on Friday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the State Department also said Kerry “expressed our concern about the increasingly sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict on both sides.”

“In that light, the secretary noted his appreciation for the foreign minister's statement on June 11 discouraging Iraqis from joining the fight in Syria. The secretary further urged that Iraq take every possible measure to help end the military resupply of the Assad regime and thereby increase the pressure that will be necessary to advance a political solution,” the State Department said.

Obama is set to meet on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key Assad ally, at a G8 conference in Northern Ireland to discuss the Syria situation.

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