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Report: U.S., France nixed Kerry visit to Syria

JTA

March 28, 2011 | 10:34 am

The Obama administration and France reportedly nixed a visit by U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to Syria.

Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has cultivated a relationship with the regime otherwise treated as a pariah in the West in the hope of drawing it away from Iranian influence.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Kerry had planned a visit last month, but the governments of the United States and of French President Nicolas Sarkozy blocked the visit out of concern that it would signal “Western weakness” as pro-Iranian and pro-Western forces jockeyed for influence in Syria’s neighbor, Lebanon.

Israel, the United States and France are closely watching the anti-government protests that have spread in Syria, part of broader regional unrest, with a degree of ambivalence. The Western governments fear the prospect of a Syria descended into chaos, but they also perceive the prospect of a weakened Assad government as an opportunity for diminishing Iranian influence.

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