WASHINGTON - US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday that the situation in Syria appeared to be "spinning out of control," as he voiced concern about rising violence and renewed calls for increased global pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.

"This is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control," Panetta said, adding the international community needed to "bring maximum pressure on Assad to do what's right, to step down and allow for that peaceful transition."

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