US priority on Syria no longer focused on 'getting Assad out' - Haley

NEW YORK, March 30 (Reuters) - The United States is no longer making removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power a focus of its policy in the war-torn country, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Thursday, in a departure from the Obama administration's initial stance on Assad's fate.

"Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out," Ambassador Nikki Haley told a small group of reporters. "Our priority is to really look at how do we get things done, who do we need to work with to really make a difference for the people in Syria.

"We can't necessarily focus on Assad the way that the previous administration did," she said.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama said as early as August 2011 that Assad had to go. By September 2015, his administration had moderated its stance slightly, with Obama's secretary of state, John Kerry, saying that Assad had to go but the timing of his departure should be decided through negotiation.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking in Ankara, said Assad's longer-term status "will be decided by the Syrian people." (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Writing by Tim Ahmann and Yara Bayoumy; Editing by David Alexander and Leslie Adler)

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Men walk near damage inside Aleppo's Umayyad mosque, Syria December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A combination picture shows Aleppo's Umayyad mosque, Syria, before it was damaged on October 6, 2010 (top) and after it was damaged (bottom) December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi (top)/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
People walk inside Aleppo's Umayyad mosque, Syria March 12, 2009. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Damage is seen inside Aleppo's Umayyad mosque, Syria December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A combination picture shows Aleppo's Umayyad mosque, Syria, before it was damaged on March 12, 2009 (top) and after it was damaged (bottom) December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A combination picture shows Shahba Mall, one of the largest commercial shopping centres in Syria, before it was damaged on December 12, 2009 (L) and after it was damaged (R) on October 16, 2014. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi (L)/Abdalrhman Ismail SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A woman carries an umbrella in al-Sheebani school, in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria May 14, 2008. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A general view shows damage in al-Sheebani school building, in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A combination picture shows al-Sheebani school's building, in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria before it was damaged on May 14, 2008 (top) and after it was damaged (bottom) December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A damaged chandelier lies on the ground at Hamam El Nahasin, in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A combination picture shows Hamam El Nahasin, in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria before it was damaged on October 6, 2010 (top) and after it was damaged December 17, 2016. REUTERS/(Top)Khalil Ashawi/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
People attend a music concert in al-Sheebani school's courtyard, in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria June 6, 2009. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A general view shows damage in al-Sheebani school's courtyard, in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A combination picture shows al-Sheebani school's courtyard, in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria before it was damaged on June 6, 2009 (top) and after it was damaged December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A general view shows the entrance to al-Zarab souk in the Old city of Aleppo, Syria November 24, 2008. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A general view shows damage on the entrance to al-Zarab souk in the Old city of Aleppo, Syria December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A combination picture shows the entrance to al-Zarab souk in the Old city of Aleppo, Syria November 24, 2008 (top) and after it was damaged December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
People walk inside Aleppo's Umayyad mosque, Syria March 12, 2009. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Men walk near damage inside Aleppo's Umayyad mosque, Syria December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A combination picture shows Aleppo's Umayyad mosque, Syria, before it was damaged on March 12, 2009 (top) and after it was damaged December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A general view shows the Old City of Aleppo, Syria November 24, 2008. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A general view shows damage in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A combination picture shows the Old City of Aleppo, Syria on November 24, 2008 (top) and after it was damaged December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A combination picture shows Aleppo's historic citadel, in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria before it was damaged on August 9, 2010 (top) and after it was damaged December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Sandra Auger (top)/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "ALEPPO HERITAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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