Internatioanl pressure on Syria increases: Obama calls on Assad to step down

WASHINGTON - The United States for the first time explicitly called on Thursday for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and imposed new economic sanctions likely to be followed up by the European Union.
US President Barack Obama made his appeal after five months of a brutal Syrian government crackdown against protesters seeking an end to the 41-year reign by the Syrian president and his late father, Hafez al-Assad.

The fresh US sanctions would freeze Syrian government assets under US jurisdiction, bar US individuals or companies from transactions with Assad's government and ban US imports of Syrian petroleum.

The US sanctions are likely to have limited impact because of the low level of US-Syrian trade and the minimal US imports of Syrian oil, analysts said, but would likely be followed by European nations with greater economic leverage.

Britain, France and Germany also demanded that Assad go, as did the EU, whose foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said the bloc's 27 members were preparing to target more Syrian entities and looking at ways to broaden their sanctions.

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