Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton followed President Obama’s statement with a briefing on the U.S. policy shift. (Luis Alvarez/Associated Press).
By Jason Ukman and Liz Slay, Aug 18, 2011 — President Obama on Thursday for the first time explicitly called on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to step down, a symbolically significant step intended to ratchet up pressure on the government five months after the start of the uprising in that country.
Obama also issued an executive order immediately freezing all assets of the Syrian government subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting Americans from engaging in any transaction involving the government.
“We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led,” Obama said in a statement. “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”
The move, which follows weeks of pressure on the administration to formally call for Assad to leave office, was coordinated with the European Union and other Western allies. In a joint statement, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for Assad to step aside, saying he should “face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people”. . . .