U.S. President Barack Obama, joined by the leaders of the U.K., France, Germany and Canada, called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave office, saying “the time has come” for the Syrian people to determine their future.
It was the first explicit demand for Assad’s departure from the U.S. and comes more than a month after Obama said Assad had lost legitimacy to lead. The declaration adds to momentum building at the United Nations for a formal resolution against the bloodshed. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also called today on Assad to step down.
Obama signed an executive order freezing any Syrian government assets in the U.S. and banning import to the U.S. of petroleum products of Syrian origin. The order denies Syria access to the U.S. financial system and prohibits people in the U.S. from doing business with Syria.
“For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.”
The condemnation was echoed in a joint statement from U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Assad “has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country.”
Faced with the most serious threat to his family’s 40-year rule, Assad has deployed tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and helicopters to crush the uprising that began after revolts ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and sparked a conflict in Libya.
Security forces killed at least 25 protesters yesterday, activists said. Government forces have killed more than 2,400 people since the unrest began in March, according to Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, and Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is ready to tell the Security Council today that there is evidence that the government’s deadly suppression of dissent has violated international law, according to a UN diplomat briefed on the findings who wasn’t authorized to discuss them publicly.
The UN report may add momentum to a European-led push to overcome Russian and Chinese resistance to firmer UN action against Assad.
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