US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad fits the definition of a war criminal.
Clinton's remarks were made during testimony before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the budget for the State Department and foreign operations.
She was pressed by Sen. Lindsey Graham about Syria, where the United Nations now says more than 7,500 people have died in a bloody crackdown by Assad aimed at quelling widespread domestic unrest.
Asked specifically if Assad is a war criminal, Clinton stopped short of committing to a direct answer.
“Based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category,” Clinton answered.
“People have been putting forth the argument,” she added.
“But I also think that from long experience that can complicate a resolution of a difficult, complex situation because it limits options to persuade leaders perhaps to step down from power,” Clinton said
Clinton's remarks came on the same day that Tunisia offered to give Syrian President Bashar al-Assad political asylum "if that helps to end a crackdown on the near-year-old uprising against his rule."
Tunisia, whose largely peaceful revolution a year ago sparked the Arab Spring uprisings that saw off autocratic leaders in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, is opposed to a Libya-style military campaign against Syria.
It has, however, expelled the Syrian ambassador in protest against what it has called the “heinous massacres against the Syrian people.”
Meanwhile, Syria's envoy the United Nations in Geneva stormed out of an emergency session called by the UN Human Rights Commission on Syria's spiraling violence.
Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui charged that sanctions imposed on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for its brutal year-long crackdown prevented Damascus from buying medicines and fuel.
He then abruptly walked out the council's emergency debate on Syria.
“We declare our withdrawal from this sterile discussion,” Hamoui said, leaving a room filled with government ministers and senior officials from around the world in his wake.