US condemns Assad’s use of violence against protesters

Obama calls on Syrian leader "to be responsive to the legitimate aspirations of the people."

April 2, 2011 23:24
2 minute read.
Syrians shout "freedom" during a protest

Syrian protests. (photo credit: REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri)


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WASHINGTON – The United States criticized Syria harshly Friday for its actions against protesters, with the White House denouncing the government’s response to demonstrations that left several civilians dead.

“We condemn and deplore the use of violence against citizens demonstrating in Syria, and applaud the courage and dignity of the Syrian people,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement issued Friday afternoon.

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“We urge all parties to maintain calm and avoid violence, and call on the Syrian government to respect human rights and to allow for peaceful demonstrations”

The Obama administration called on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad “to be responsive to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people” and deliver on his promises to “advance a meaningful reform agenda.” Carney additionally stressed that “Violence is not the answer to the grievances of the Syrian people. What is needed now is a credible path to a future of greater freedom, democracy, opportunity, and justice.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford had been in close touch with Syrian officials to convey America’s concerns. The US wants to see the 42-year-old emergency law lifted, among other measures, he said.

Carney’s words were echoed by Democratic Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a close ally of Obama’s.

“Violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable – whether in Syria, Bahrain, Yemen or anyplace else – and betrays the values that we, as Americans, respect and that people everywhere should share,” Kerry said ahead of Friday’s protests. “I am particularly concerned about the violence against protesters in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad did not use his speech yesterday to promise concrete reforms, including lifting the emergency law.”

Kerry stressed the need for Assad to “refrain from using violence against [his] own people.”

Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman went further Friday, calling for Assad’s ouster.

“Syria deserves to be free, and Assad needs to go,” he said in a statement. “The people of Syria, no less than the people of Egypt, or Libya, or any other place, deserve to have their universal human rights respected.”

His rhetoric went farther than the Obama administration has, and he appeared to directly rebuke Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for calling Assad a “reformer” in an interview last Sunday.

“Assad is not a reformer.

Anyone who thinks so is at best fooling themselves, and at worst, serving as a useful idiot to a murderous dictator and a proud sponsor of terrorism,” Ackerman said.

“The Assad regime’s most recent and highly visible brutality is not an aberration or a temporary sign of stress; it is rather the unplanned exposure of its true nature.”

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