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US Increases Syrian Sanctions

Syrian President Bashar al-AssadOn Wednesday, the US imposed more financial sanctions on Syrian government officials and moved closer to announcing a direct call for Bashar al-Assad to resign. This comes as international pressure has intensified on the Syrian president due to his savage crackdown on demonstrators. One American official said President Obama’s administration is anticipated to set out a stricter line this week. However, another source says a decision is to be made soon, but the timing hasn’t been settled yet.

The US Treasury Department already had sanctions on the Syrian government and Assad’s inner circle, but now they have added the nation’s biggest commercial bank and Syriatel, its largest mobile phone service provider, to the blacklist, which includes other companies whose assets have been frozen and barred from trading with the US. The White House has reiterated Obama’s belief that Assad has lost presidential legitimacy and that Syria will be better off without him. However, the government didn’t exactly call on him to resign.

White House spokesman Jay Carney tells journalists that President Assad has ensured that he and his government will be left in the past. What’s most important is that they ensure their actions support their words. However, he didn’t say if Obama intends to directly call for the Syrian leader to leave power, saying that he will leave future announcements to when the president says them.

Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says that their focus is strengthening the international response of condemnation in regard to the loathsome activities of the Syrian government. The US is specifically working with European and other nations to impose a broader spectrum of global sanctions to more directly impact the country’s leadership in conjunction with American sanctions. The aim is to ensure that everything possible is done to tighten the noose on Assad’s regime.

Despite the new sanctions and continued international pressure, President Assad pressed ahead with military assaults in eastern and northern Syria. Activists and residents claim that at least 35 people have been killed in the last day. The attacks seemed to be an attempt by the government to halt an uprising during Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and sexual behaviour between dawn until dusk. Military and security forces have laid siege on Deir al-Zour in the east, Hama at the center of the country, and Idlib on the Turkish border so far this month. Some human rights groups say that over 2,000 protesters have been killed at the hands of government forces since the uprising started in March.

Assad has declared that Syria won’t ease off in its pursuit of terrorist groups. This comes as officials have continued to insist throughout the violence that the uprising is led by aggressive Islamists with foreign support. Meanwhile, Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, a personal friend of Assad’s, says that Syria is pointing guns at its own citizens, and he hopes Assad will end the violence within 10 to 15 days and start a reform. This statement has led some to believe that Turkey still sees the Syrian leader as capable of leading a transition in the country – unlike many other nations.

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