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Clinton to meet Syrian opposition in Switzerland: officials

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet Syrian dissidents in Switzerland on Tuesday, officials said, as Washington sees Damascus increasingly isolated over its crushing of pro-democracy protests.

A State Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity Monday that Clinton will meet with seven political opponents of President Bashar al-Assad when she visits Geneva following a stop in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The official did not identify the group or disclose the agenda of the talks at a time when Washington seeks ways to support the opposition in its bid to oust Assad, whose family has ruled Syria with an iron fist for decades.

Clinton met for the first time with members of Syria’s disparate opposition in Washington on August 2.

The United States, which has called for Assad to step down, welcomes what it sees as the growing isolation of Assad’s regime, particularly after the 22-member Arab League and non-Arab Turkey imposed sanctions against it.

But, with an increase in armed opposition attacks, the United States and others are concerned that Assad is driving the country to sectarian strife and even civil war because of his deadly suppression of protests.

More than 4,000 have died in the Syrian regime’s continuing crackdown on dissent and protests which erupted in mid-March, according to the United Nations.