VILNIUS (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet members of the Syrian opposition in Geneva on Tuesday in a gesture of support for them in the face of an eight-month crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
More than 4,000 people have died since protests broke out in March against the Assad family's 41-year rule, according to the United Nations, whose top human rights forum has condemned "gross and systematic" violations by Syrian forces, including executions and the imprisonment of some 14,000 people.
Syrian authorities say they are fighting foreign-backed "terrorist groups" trying to spark civil war who have killed some 1,100 soldiers and police since March.
U.S. officials said Clinton would meet seven opposition members in Geneva, where she is to give a speech on human rights. It will be her second such meeting in six months, following a similar gathering in Washington in July.
The United States, the European Union and Turkey have all imposed sanctions on Syria for the violence and the Arab League has announced plans to do so to try to pressure Assad to end the violence.
U.S. officials offered no further details on Clinton's planned meeting, which will take place on the second day of a five-nation trip to Europe.
Clinton attended an international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn on Monday and will take part in an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe gathering in Vilnius on Tuesday before flying to Geneva. She then attends a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels and gives a speech on Internet freedom in The Hague before flying home on Thursday.