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DAVID GREENE, HOST:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
Today may bring some desperately needed relief to the people of a city in Syria that have been under siege for months. Homs has been the scene of some of the most heart-wrenching stories to come out of that war. People there are trapped, foraging for food, suffering from malnutrition and in dire need of medical care for illness and injuries. There are neighborhoods have been cut off for more than a year.
GREENE: Now this morning, negotiations between the government and rebels allowed U.N. buses to enter the downtown and evacuate elderly women and men. It's unclear how many will get out or whether badly needed food aid will be allowed in.
MONTAGNE: Samantha Power is America's ambassador to the United Nations, and she's been working on the Syria issue with her U.N. counterpart, even as they traveled a few days ago to another international flashpoint, the African nation of Mali. You'll remember that was a long-running rebellion in Mali's desert that was taken over last year by extremists linked to al-Qaida. Eventually, French troops went in to quell the fighting in Mali, and that's where I began my conversation with Samantha Power when we reached her in her office at the U.N.
Ambassador Power, welcome to the program.
AMBASSADOR SAMANTHA POWER: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: What is the situation in Mali as you saw it over the weekend?
POWER: Well, on the one hand, I think it's remarkable the progress the country has made; a newly democratically-elected president that have committed publicly and run on a platform of prosecuting those who have committed crimes against humanity, and who's also committed himself to reconciliation with the groups that rose up triggering this crisis in the first place.
So that's the good news. On the other hand, it's very important that the reconciliation process go forward. Ultimately, Malians are going to decide whether or not they address the root causes of the original crisis or whether they don't. And that, I think, is where the international community needs to put its weight, encouraging, pressing - if you will - the authorities to move out more quickly than they are at present, to engage those actors who have long felt disenfranchised and alienated by the state and by the center.
MONTAGNE: You met with France's foreign minister in Mali, and I gather you discussed Syria. And you had both have known of the Security Council report, which was last week, detailing horrific things that have been done to children in Syria - torture, sexual abuse, children being recruited to fight, children being held in detention, atrocities being carried on by both sides - the government and rebels - although, the report said that the government was responsible for more of that. As someone who spent most of your adult life fighting to prevent such atrocities, what goes through your mind when you're handed a report like that?
POWER: It's completely heartbreaking and only underscores just how critical it is that we bring the parties to the table and that there be some transition achieved whereby Assad, the head of this monstrous regime, steps down. And I mean we are doing everything we can think of to try to mitigate the horrific suffering there, including stepping up the pressure on humanitarian access and so forth. But so far, as you say, tremendous suffering goes on and so we, every day, just seek to push harder and seek to enlist Russia in particular - which has been a patron of the regime - to try to secure the humanitarian access that is needed to try to evacuate those individuals who have been besieged in some cases for more than 600 days.
MONTAGNE: But you have written that the key to stopping something like what's happening in Syria, what really counts is the will to do something - political will to do something. But it would seem like the U.S., even if it is highly aware of atrocities brewing, and has the will to do something, is actually quite constrained by the fact that it's not the only power around, in Syria's case, or that the situation is very complicated. In other words, there are constraints not of the U.S.'s making, but they're there and they're very hard to overcome.
POWER: Well, I think what President Obama has, you know, instructed all of us to do is just look at every tool that we have in the toolbox and see what we can deploy, you know, so that we don't confront a choice between doing nothing on the one hand and sending in the Marines on the other. There are a whole host of tools that we have and we have deployed a whole host of them in service of trying to, again, bring the parties to the table, bring about a political solution and in the meantime, mitigate humanitarian suffering. But we can't be satisfied with the results when you see 9.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and you see a regime continuing to brutalize its people. You see the rise of armed extremist groups, al-Qaida affiliates and so forth who are committing horrific abuses as well.
So, we are pressing our Russian colleagues, but here in New York and, of course, in Moscow to use the leverage that they have. We have agreement between us that a transitional governing body should be formed in Syria and, you know, what we need to do is to get the Syrian government to accept that reality because the war will continue, the suffering will continue for as long as Assad is in power.
MONTAGNE: Ambassador Samantha Power. Thanks very much for joining us.
POWER: Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power spoke to us from her office at the U.N.