April 18, 2011 / 6:08 PM / 6 years ago

U.S. says not trying to undermine Syrian government

<p>Boys hold a banner during a demonstration in the the Syrian port city of Banias April 17, 2011.Stringer</p>

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is not working to undermine the Syrian government but is trying to support democratic goals as it does elsewhere in the world, the State Department said on Monday.

The comments came after The Washington Post reported that the State Department has secretly funded Syrian opposition groups, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

"Trying to promote a transformation to a more democratic process in this society is not undermining necessarily the existing government," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "needs to address the legitimate aspirations of his people," he said.

"No we are not working to undermine that government," Toner said in response to a question at a media briefing, adding the U.S. government was working to promote democratic processes in Syria and elsewhere in the world.

"The Syrian government perceives this kind of assistance as a threat," he said.

The diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million since 2006 to a group of Syrian exiles to operate a London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, and finance activities inside Syria, the Post said.

Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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