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Obama calls on Syria's Assad to 'step aside'

In a scathing written statement, the US President condemned Bashar Assad for his “ferocious brutality” and “slaughtering of his own people”.

US PRESIDENT BARACK Obama has called on Syria’s unpopular president, Bashar Assad to “step aside” so the people of Syria can fulfill their wish of a peaceful transition to democracy.

In his most damning statement about the current Syrian regime, Obama condemned the Assad government’s “flagrant disrespect for the dignity of the Syrian people”.

This is the first explicit call from the US that Assad should stand down from his position, which he has held since his father’s death in 2000.

Obama said the US has been inspired by the Syrian people’s peaceful marches and “courageous persistence” as they brave the “ferocious brutality” of their government.

He added that Assad is standing in the way of the Syrian people’s wishes for the future of their country.

We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way.  He has not led.  For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.

Assad’s calls for reforms have “rung hollow” while he has been “imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people”, according to Obama.

However, the US stopped short of threatening intervention as Obama made it clear that Assad’s resignation will not be “imposed upon Syria”

To continue to put pressure on Assad in other ways, the US has said it will extend its financial sanctions against the Syrian regime.

Obama said the move to freeze all of the assets of the Syrian government was made to disrupt its ability to finance a campaign of violence against the Syrian people.

All US citizens are now banned from engaging in any type of transaction with the Assad government.

In another unprecedented step, no more imports of Syrian petrol, or related products, will be accepted into the US.

Concluding the stinging attack on Assad, Obama said:

We recognise that it will take time for the Syrian people to achieve the justice they deserve. There will be more struggle and sacrifice. It is clear that President Assad believes that he can silence the voices of his people by resorting to the repressive tactics of the past. But he is wrong.

As we have learned these last several months, sometimes the way things have been is not the way that they will be. It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera is reporting that France, the UK and Germany have  issued a joint statement to call for Assad’s resignation.

Read: Obama’s full statement here >

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