|Syrian soldiers |
© AFP Joseph Eid
WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama acknowledged Friday that Syria was of "acute concern" for the United States and Israel, and outlined tough US measures against Damascus to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In joint remarks after a meeting with Netanyahu, Obama said the two had "discussed the situation in Syria, which is obviously of acute concern to Israel, given its shared border."
Obama said he gave the Israeli prime minister more details about "significant steps" the administration is taking to try to pressure Syria and regime of President Bashar al-Assad to reform, "including the sanctions that we placed directly on President Assad."
For more than two months, pro-democracy protests have challenged Assad's regime, which has retaliated with deadly force, sweeping arrests and torture, rights activists say.
Human rights groups and the United Nations estimate that 850 people have been killed and thousands arrested since mid-March.
In a keynote speech on US Middle East policy delivered Thursday, Obama said that Syrian president must lead a political transition or stand aside.
"President Assad now has a choice. He can lead that transition or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests," Obama said in his speech.
On Wednesday, Obama had imposed new sanctions, signing an executive order seeking to "increase pressure on the government of Syria to end its use of violence and begin transitioning to a democratic system that ensures the universal rights of the Syrian people."
At the same time, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on two Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) commanders for the role they have allegedly played in supporting the crackdown by ally Syria.
The Wednesday sanctions follow the imposition on April 30 of sanctions on 13 other members of Assad's inner circle, including Maher al-Assad, the powerful brother of the president, who commands Syria's feared Fourth Armored Division.
© AFP -- Published at Activist Post with license