WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States warned it would take "additional steps" against Syria if it continues a brutal crackdown on protesters, a week after imposing tough sanctions on the Arab nation.
"The United States believes that Syria's deplorable actions toward its people warrant a strong international response," the White House said in one of its strongest statements yet since the outbreak of unrest there.
It warned that unless President Bashar al-Assad's government halted its repression of peaceful pro-democracy protests, "the United States and its international partners will take additional steps to make clear our strong opposition to the Syrian government?s treatment of its people."
It also welcomed the European Union's decision to impose sanctions on Syrian officials "responsible for human rights abuses."
On April 29, the United States ordered the freezing and restricting of Syrian financial transactions, notably targeting Maher al-Assad, the powerful brother of the president, who commands Syria's feared Fourth Armored Division.
Also named in an executive order from President Barack Obama were Ali Mamluk, director of Syria's Intelligence Directorate, and Atif Najib, the former head of intelligence in Daraa province, the epicenter of political violence.
But the Obama administration stopped short of targeting the Syrian president himself, and has so far not withdrawn the US ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, who only arrived in January in a bid to improve relations.
The latest White House statement came after rights groups said Syrian security forces shot dead at least 26 protesters Friday during a huge "Day of Defiance" against the regime.
"We strongly condemn and deplore the Syrian government's use of violence and mass arrests in response to ongoing demonstrations," the statement said.