In his first explicit demand, President Obama called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. The White House issued a written statement praising the protesters' "pursuit of a peaceful transition" and "strongly condemning" the Syrian regime's "brutality."
"The future of Syria must be determined by its people," the president said inthe statement. "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."
The call comes after five months of protests in the country and increasingly violent crackdowns from Syrian security forces. Just yesterday, reported Bloomberg, the Syrian government killed at least 25 protesters.
The president's statement also comes hours before the United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet to discuss the situation in the country. Bloomberg adds:
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is ready to tell the Security Council today that there is evidence the government's deadly suppression of dissent has violated international law, according to a UN diplomat briefed on the findings who wasn't authorized to discuss them publicly. The UN has withdrawn non-essential staff from Syria, the office of its Special Coordinator for Lebanon said yesterday.
The UN report, amid growing international outrage, may add momentum to a European-led push to overcome Russian resistance to firmer UN action against Assad. Faced with the most serious threat to his family's 40-year rule, he has deployed tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and helicopters to crush the uprising that began after revolts ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, and sparked a conflict in Libya.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is scheduled to speak later this morning.