US Secretary Clinton Toughens Tone Toward Syria (Washington Post)
By STEVEN LEE MYERS Published: May 12, 2011
NUUK, Greenland — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clintonmoved the United States a step closer to calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Thursday as she denounced his government’s intensifying crackdown on protesters.
“The recent events in Syria make clear that the country cannot return to the way it was before,” she said at the opening of remarks with Denmark’s foreign minister before a meeting here among Arctic nations. “Tanks and bullets and clubs will not solve Syria’s political and economic challenges.”
The Obama administration has criticized Syrian government repeatedly and imposed largely symbolic sanctions on three senior security officials, but it has stopped short of calling for Mr. Assad’s removal or pursuing more aggressive diplomatic measures at, for example, the United Nations Security Council. Its patience appears to be running out.
Mrs. Clinton said that the United States would pursue “additional steps to hold Syria responsible for its gross human rights abuses,” which she cataloged in her remarks: hundreds of deaths, unlawful detentions, torture and the denial of medical care to the wounded.
“There may be some who think this is a sign of strength,” she said, “but treating one’s own people in this way is in fact a sign of remarkable weakness.”
A senior official elaborated that the administration was now considering imposing sanctions on additional Syrian officials. That could include Mr. Assad himself. The American sanctions have so far frozen the assets of three officials, including Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother and a brigade commander involved in the military operations against protesters. Since Syrian leaders are believed to keep their money in European or Middle Eastern banks, putting it…