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Clinton cancels Mid East trip due to illness

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not attend the Dec. 12 meeting of the Friends of Syria in Morocco due to a lingering stomach ailment. Clinton was expected to make news at the event by formally recognizing the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the new opposition leadership organization put together last month ...

KEVIN LAMARQUE/AFP/Getty Images
KEVIN LAMARQUE/AFP/Getty Images
KEVIN LAMARQUE/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not attend the Dec. 12 meeting of the Friends of Syria in Morocco due to a lingering stomach ailment.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not attend the Dec. 12 meeting of the Friends of Syria in Morocco due to a lingering stomach ailment.

Clinton was expected to make news at the event by formally recognizing the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the new opposition leadership organization put together last month in Doha with the help of the State Department, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. That designation would pave the way for the U.S. to increase its aid to the Syrian opposition.

She was expected to leave Washington Monday, but initially delayed the trip for one day due to the stomach virus. Late Monday evening, her spokesman Philippe Reines said Clinton was cancelling the whole Middle East trip.

"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," Reines said. "In her place, Deputy Secretary [Bill] Burns will travel to Marrakech for the Friends of the Syrian People meeting. We will let you know when she shakes this bug and resumes a public schedule."

Clinton was also slated to go to Tunisia and to the UAE, where she was to attend the opening of a new center of excellence for countering violent extremism. Reines said Burns will take on Clinton’s full schedule and make those stops as well.

Burns just got back from Bahrain, where he led the U.S. delegation to the 2012 IISS Manama Security Dialogue, which also included your humble Cable guy. At the conference, Burns didn’t say that formal recognition of the Syrian council was coming, but several State Department sources told The Cable the decision to recognize the group in Morocco had already been made.

Burns did say that the balance of power on the ground is clearly shifting against the regime and that the Obama administration is considering additional ways the "can help speed the genuine transition of power," ideally through a political transition to new leadership based on the Geneva plan developed last summer.

Mustafa Sabbagh, secretary general of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said in Bahrain that he thinks the U.S. will recognize his council as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in Morocco.

"We do expect from the USA a similar recognition," he said, referring to the fact that several other western countries have already recognized the group. "I did not hear that there were any conditions set by the USA for this recognition."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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