The White House says a rare meeting of Syrian opposition leaders in Damascus cannot be viewed as a significant step forward as long as the government there continues its violent crackdown on civilians.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says the meeting of about 200 opposition figures and intellectuals was "worthwhile." But he says its significance is lost because of government interference and the continued bloody attacks on protesters.
The government of President Bashar Assad gave its approval for the dissident meeting, but was not represented at it. The meeting came as the regime is reeling under the pressure of a relentless protest movement, and authorities were clearly anxious to show they were making concessions.