The U.S. and other key allies, however, are considering giving Syrian rebels communications help, medical aid and other "non-lethal" assistance. A move to arm them appears unlikely in the short term because of confusion over their unity and leadership, as well as fears that the bloodshed would evolve into a protracted civil war without a clear winner.
A buffer zone, while defined as a humanitarian and national security mission, would amount to military intervention in a sovereign state and would therefore encounter opposition in the U.N. Security Council.
Russia, an Assad ally, has opposed foreign intervention even though it has become increasingly vocal about the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Russian officials see an international monitoring force inside Syria as a wedge to open the way for overt international military involvement, recalling the seven-month NATO bombing campaign in Libya that aimed to protect civilians but ended up helping to topple leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Turkey is concerned that a current mission by U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to Russia and China will be manipulated by Assad to buy time and divert international pressure.
Annan's plan, endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, includes a cease-fire by Syrian forces, a daily two-hour halt in fighting to evacuate the injured and provide aid, and talks about a political solution.
Until now, Turkey has pushed hard for international diplomacy on Syria, but it is showing signs of fatigue. Its government feels betrayed by Assad because he failed to act as promised on its appeals for reform. Turkey now calls for his resignation with increasingly harsh rhetoric.
"Turkey is trying to take the initiative on ending the humanitarian crime in Syria and to ease the tears being shed there," Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said. "Turkey cannot remain indifferent to the tragedy taking place near it."
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