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U.S. Calls On Assad To Step Aside

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes a statement calling on President Assad of Syria to step aside, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

President Barack Obama has called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave office.

President Barack Obama has called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave office, in light of the ferocious brutality his regime has unleashed against the Syrian people.

For five months, Syrians, peacefully demanding their universal rights, have stood up to unrelenting attacks by Syrian forces. More than 2000 people have been killed, over 10,000 arrested, and countless more have simply disappeared.

President Obama said in a statement, "The future of Syria must be determined by its people; but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people. We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led," said Mr. Obama. "For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside."

To deepen the financial isolation of the Assad regime and help cut off funding for his brutal repression, Mr. Obama announced new sanctions against the Government of Syria. The sanctions freeze all assets of the Syrian government subject to American jurisdiction and prohibit American citizens from engaging in any transactions with the Syrian government or investing in Syria.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted, "These actions strike at the heart of the regime by banning American imports of Syrian petroleum and petroleum products and prohibit Americans from dealing in these products:"

"And as we increase pressure on the Assad regime to disrupt its ability to finance its campaign of violence, we will take steps to mitigate any unintended effects of the sanctions on the Syrian people."

Secretary Clinton noted that over the past weeks Syria's neighbors have joined in the "chorus of condemnation" of the Assad regime. "We expect," she said, "that they and other members of the international community will amplify the steps we are taking both through their words and their actions."

Secretary of State Clinton said the United States understands "the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle, and we respect their wishes." What the United States will continue to do, she said, is "stand up for their universal rights and dignity by pressuring the regime and Assad personally" to get out of the way of a transition to a government "that protects their dignity, protects their rights, and lives up to their aspirations."