Sen. Ben Nelson today said that Syrian President Bashar Assad must go.
“There’s no question he has to leave,” Nelson told reporters during a conference call from Jetta, Saudi Arabia. “I don’t think there’s anybody who is looking at this today who thinks that he can stay or that there are any circumstances where he can remain.”
Nelson has been in the Middle East through the long Memorial Day weekend, stopping first in Egypt, then visiting Saudi Arabia. Nelson told reporters he has talked with Saudi governmental figures as well as business executives from the country worried that unrest there could hurt trade.
Nelson holds a conference call with reporters every week when Congress is in session in Washington. The conference call today came at the end of his trip to the Middle East as a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.
Trouble in Syria has dominated discussions, according to Nelson. He said Saudi officials say the Middle East is looking for leadership from the United States to resolve the conflict in that country which seems to have escalated. The United Nations reports 49 children and 34 women died in a civilian attack in Houla in which activists there claim the Syrian military slaughtered 108 villagers. The government claims soldiers acted in self-defense.
“Officials in Saudi Arabia seem to be of the same mind and that is that something must be done in connection with Syria and that they want to be an active party to that,” according to Nelson.
Even Russia has criticized Assad’s government, signaling a change in position of an ally that has stood by the government since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.
Nelson said everyone seems determined to avoid military action to remove the Assad government.
“I guess everyone’s hope is that pressure on the regime, supporting the efforts of the opposition, knowing who the opponents are as well, that that might result in a decision to leave to avoid the circumstances that occurred in Libya,” Nelson said.
Rebels toppled the government of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi and killed him and his son.
AUDIO: Sen. Ben Nelson discusses his trip to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. [4:20]
AUDIO: Sen. Nelson says Syria President Bashar Assad must go. [2 min.]