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Renewed international pressure on Syria's regime

The United States today called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, and announced new sanctions against his regime.

Leaders from the UK, France and Germany also echoed President Obama’s statement in the wake of a violent crackdown against protestors that has killed thousands.

The demands come as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, briefed the UN Security Council after a report identified 50 Syrian officials that could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for possible crimes against humanity.

In a statement US President Barack Obama said:

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-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.  We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way.  He has not led.  For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, declaring a new tougher round of sanctions against the Assad regime, said in a televised address:

"In just the past two weeks, many of Syria’s own neighbors and partners in the region have joined the chorus of condemnation. We expect that they and other members of the international community will amplify the steps we are taking both through their words and their actions."

A joint statement by British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel said:

"The Syrian authorities have ignored the urgent appeals made over recent days by the United Nations Security Council, by numerous States in the region, the Gulf Cooperation Council and by the Secretaries-General of the League of Arab States and of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

"They continue to cruelly and violently repress their people and flatly refuse to fulfil their legitimate aspirations. They have ignored the voices of the Syrian people and continuously misled them and the international community with empty promises."

"Our three countries believe that President Assad, who is resorting to brutal military force against his own people and who is responsible for the situation, has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country. We call on him to face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people and to step aside in the best interests of Syria and the unity of its people."

Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay briefed the 15-member Security Council at a closed door session on Thursday, after the UN released a report led by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha-Kang, accusing Syrian officials of torture, summary executions and abuse of children, allegations that could amount to crimes against humanity.