Conflict & Justice

Syria: Obama joins calls for Bashar al-Assad to step down


U.S. President Barack Obama is calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down as international pressure mounts on Syria after months of brutal crackdowns on anti-government protests.

Obama issued a written statement Thursday marking his first explicit call for President Assad to resign from power, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will follow suit in an on-camera appearance, according to the Associated Press.

Leaders of the UK, France, Germany and the EU have also called for Assad to step down over his supression of protesters, the BBC says.

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“For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” Obama says in the statement issued by the White House, The New York Times reports.

In a newly released report, UN investigators say the violence by Syrian security forces shows “a pattern of human rights violations” that "may amount to crimes against humanity."

The report urges the UN Security Council to consider referring the matter to the International Criminal Court, saying that security forces have used deadly force against civilians in Syria in attempts to stop months of anti-government protests, the BBC says.

About 2,000 people are believed to have been killed in Syria since March, according to human rights groups.

While the U.S. has tightened its sanctions against members of Syria’s government, it has stopped short of demanding that Assad leave power.

Assad has told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that military operations against protesters have "stopped,” a UN spokesman said.

But reports from inside Syria indicate the violence has continued, despite the highly-publicized troop withdrawal from three hotspots in the past few weeks, most recently from the Ramel district of Latakia on the western coast.