WASHINGTON – US national security adviser Susan Rice suggested a subtle shift in American priorities in Syria on Sunday, indicating that the embattled country could soon become a breeding ground for terrorist cells hoping to operate worldwide.

The US still hopes embattled President Bashar Assad will step down from power, but now concerns itself primarily with the fragmentation of Syria, Rice said.

“First of all, we don’t want to see terrorists and the terrorist threat emanate from Syria,” Rice said. “We don’t want to see the state fragment.”

While Rice called the deaths of over 130,000 Syrians thus far in the ongoing conflict “horrific,” she added, “this is not a genocide.”

“It’s a horrific civil war,” she said, “that has spilled over and infused the neighboring states.”

The White House is currently revisiting both old and new options on how best to approach the Syrian crisis, now well into its third year. But US President Barack Obama has ruled out boots on the ground, Rice reasserted. The president would not “insert” the US into another “hot, bloody conflict in the middle of the Middle East,” she explained.

In her first appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press since sharing controversial talking points on an attack against the American consulate in Benghazi in September 2012, Rice spoke extensively on recent developments in Ukraine. She also defended Obama’s policies across the Middle East, from the Syrian crisis to negotiations with Iran and the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We’re actively working to try to bring a negotiated resolution, finally, to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

And as difficult and fraught as that is, we’re making progress,” she said. “Because of United States leadership, we have the prospect of resolving the Iranian nuclear program through diplomacy. We don’t know that it will succeed, but we’re closer to that goal than we have ever been.”

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