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US presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he’d work with partners to help Syria’s rebels defeat Assad militarily.

The Republican nominee delivered a major policy address at the Virginia Military Institute, which was intended to distinguish Romney from Obama on questions of foreign policy , while also casting Romney as a steady, presidential and plausible commander-in-chief for voters.

The speech focused heavily on upheaval in the Middle East — the attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, popular uprisings in Syria and Egypt, the Iranian nuclear program and America’s relationship with Israel — to level the charge that Obama had chosen to “lead from behind” as president.

“The president is fond of saying that, ‘The tide of war is receding.’ And I want to believe him as much as anyone,” Romney said. “But when we look at the Middle East today … it is clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the President took office.”

Romney essentially argued that, in most instances, Obama had failed to project a clear and coherent American policy abroad. The GOP presidential hopeful suggested that he would use U.S. power with greater clarity, taking a tougher tack versus Iran and working to support allied forces in Syria, where the Assad regime has launched assaults on rebels that have left thousands dead.

Much of the speech dealt with the recent outbreak of violence in Libya, where a siege on a U.S. consulate — waged apparently by terrorists — left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

WP/AP/NBC

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