President Obama announced new economic sanctions against the Syrian regime and joined Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the European Union in calling on Assad to resign.
The Syrian people's campaign for democracy had been met with "ferocious brutality" by the Assad regime, Obama said. Although Syria's future "must be determined by its people," Assad "is standing in their way.
"His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people."
His administration had urged Assad to lead "a democratic transition" in Syria, which has been ruled by the dictator's family for more than 40 years. But "Assad has not led" and needs to step aside "for the sake of the Syrian people," Obama said.
On Thursday, the White House announced an executive order imposing additional U.S. sanctions on the Syrian government. These include provisions barring Syrian government agencies from access to the U.S. financial system; barring Americans from engaging in transactions "related to Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products"; and prohibiting "new investment in Syria by a U.S. person, wherever located."
The White House also released a fact sheet detailing U.S. sanctions, financial actions and diplomatic initiatives taken since April to support "the Syrian people's universal rights" and push for "a democratic transition."
The "transition to democracy in Syria has begun, and it's time for Assad to get out of the way," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. On Tuesday, Clinton had reacted dismissively to calls for the Obama administration push for Assad's ouster. "It's not going to be any real news if the United States says, 'Assad needs to go.' Okay, fine, what's next?" she asked.
Clinton has come under fire for previous remarks depicting the Syrian dictator as a "reformer."