Cancellation of Middle East visit comes as US brands Syrian rebel group with alleged ties to al-Qaida as terrorist organisation
Hillary Clinton has pulled out of a weeklong trip to the Middle East and north Africa because of a stomach virus.
The cancellation of the US secretary of state’s trip came as the Obama administration declared a Syrian rebel group with alleged ties to al-Qaida as a terrorist organisation.
The announcement was one of several Clinton planned to bring with her to the region as part of a US effort to enhance co-operation with moderates in the Syrian coalition fighting Bashar al-Assad and isolate extremists.
Clinton’s deputy, William Burns, will take her place on the trip to Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
“Since she’s still under the weather, we’ll be staying put this week instead of heading to north Africa and the Middle East as originally planned,” Clinton’s spokesman, Philippe Reines, said.
On the first stop, Marrakech on Wednesday, Burns is expected to recognise Syria’s new opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, officials said. Clinton had been expected to make the declaration, which is designed to reward anti-Assad leaders for making their movement more inclusive and facilitate greater US assistance.
Earlier on Monday, the administration took action against the rebel militia Jabhat al-Nusra, which has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings on Syrian government targets and raised fears of growing Islamist extremism among the opposition.
By branding the group a terrorist organisation, the US government is freezing any assets Jabhat al-Nusra holds in the US and barring Americans from doing business with the group.
The action has not been announced officially, but was included on Monday in the Federal Register, the unofficial daily publication for US government rules and notices. In the notice, the state department described the group as part of al-Qaida in Iraq.