* U.S., Turkey discussed measures to aid rebels at weekend
* Ambassador says legal, practical obstacles to buffer zone
ISTANBUL Aug 15 There are serious legal and
practical obstacles to setting up a buffer zone or a no-fly zone
in Syria, Turkish newspapers on Wednesday quoted the U.S.
ambassador to Ankara as saying, after the two countries
discussed the issue at the weekend.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday the
United States and Turkey were looking at all measures to help
Syrian rebel forces fighting to overthrow President Bashar
al-Assad, including a no-fly zone.
A NATO-led no-fly zone and bombing campaign helped Libyan
rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year. But the United
States and its European allies have been reluctant to take an
overt military role in Syria's 17-month-old conflict.
U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone said in a briefing with
Turkish newspapers that issues such as setting up a no-fly zone
or a buffer zone in Syria were easy to discuss but hard to
"Of course we should evaluate these issues. However, our
discussions of these issues with Turkey should not suggest we
are making commitments to set up these zones," Ricciardone was
reported as saying by the daily Taraf.
"There are serious legal and practical obstacles on this
issue," he was quoted as saying. An official transcript of his
comments, which were published by several papers in Turkish, was
not immediately available.
"We will work on the subjects of a transition phase and
buffer zone within the U.N. Security Council in line with
international law," he was reported as saying.
Clinton had told reporters after talks with Turkish Foreign
Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Saturday that their countries needed
to get into detailed operational planning on how to assist the
rebels and bring a halt to the violence.
Asked if discussions included options such as imposing a
no-fly zone over territory that Syrian rebels claim to control,
Clinton indicated that was a possible option.
The rebels are believed to be getting weapons from Saudi
Arabia and Qatar, but only non-lethal assistance from the United
Washington sees Turkey, one of Assad's harshest critics, as
the key player both in supporting Syria's opposition and in
planning for what U.S. officials say is the inevitable collapse
of the Syrian leader's rule.
Meanwhile, Turkish television CNN Turk also quoted the U.S.
ambassador as saying that Iran, a close ally of Syria, was
providing weapons for Assad's forces, but the Iranian embassy in
Ankara issued a statement denying it.
"The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Ankara
denies the U.S. ambassador to Ankara's statements targeting Iran
and all kinds of claims about Iran providing weapons to terror
organisations," it said.