Obama to demand Assad step down: US officials

President Bashar al-Assad speaks at
 committee meeting August 17


WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama will call Thursday on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and impose “very tough” new sanctions on Damascus, US officials said.

It would be the first explicit US call for Assad to resign as pressure increases on the Syrian leader to end a months-long crackdown on dissent that has killed more than 2,000 people, according to rights activists.

Officials said the White House would issue a written statement from Obama ahead of on-camera remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scheduled for 1400 GMT.

“The president will call on Assad to step down,” according to one official, who said the White House viewed the sanctions as “strong action (that) will lend additional force to the president’s words.”

The United States had previously said Assad had lost his legitimacy to govern and said Syria would be better off without him but had not explicitly demanded he quit power.

But activists and some in Washington had criticized Obama for calling on Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi to step aside but stopping short of doing so with Assad, whose bloody crackdown on dissent has drawn global outrage.

Earlier Thursday, the UN human rights chief said Syria may have committed crimes against humanity in its bloody crackdown on dissent and urged the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

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