U.S. shuts embassy in Syria as Obama tells Assad to go

Russia defends veto of U.N. bid to halt strife

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Syria’s state-run news agency denied the accusation, claiming that civilians and police were being attacked by “armed terrorist groups” operating in the area.

According to a report by Reuters, Syrian state-run news also said gunmen had killed three government soldiers and captured others at a checkpoint near Syria’s border with Turkey.

U.S. and British officials stressed that they are working to build an international alliance beyond the United Nations with the goal of increasing political and economic pressure on Mr. Assad.

Such an alliance likely will include the European Union and some nations of the Arab League, whose efforts during recent weeks served as the impetus for the vetoed U.N. resolution.

It also could include Turkey, which borders Syria to the north and whose president expressed regret Monday over the Chinese and Russian resistance to the resolution.

“Everyone should remember that the era of the Cold War is over,” said Abdullah Gul, who appeared at a joint news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Ankara. “Human rights violations, military power being used against civilians, there is no longer a place for this in the world.”

Mr. Gul stopped short of calling for Mr. Assad’s ouster, but his remarks made headlines as British Foreign Secretary William Hague was telling lawmakers in London that Syria’s government is “doomed” and a “murdering regime.”

“There is no way it can recover its credibility internationally,” said Mr. Hague, asserting that Britain would back the rest of Western Europe should it move to deepen economic sanctions on Syria when the EU’s foreign ministers meet Feb. 27.

Syria’s government and economy already are straining under a variety of sanctions by Western and Middle Eastern powers. Current EU and U.S. sanctions on the Assad regime mainly focus on entities tied to the Syrian military or specific individuals believed to be involved in the crackdown.

Turkey, Syria’s biggest trading partner, has held a raft of economic sanctions against Syria since November. The Arab League also has asked its members to pull their ambassadors from Damascus.

In Washington, Ms. Nuland said that, in addition to pressuring nations who “are trading weapons or otherwise fueling his war machine to stop,” U.S. officials will “work with as many countries as we can to increase both regional sanctions and unilateral national sanctions on the Assad regime.”

The extent to which nations such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, a key military and economic power player in the Persian Gulf, may be willing to join sanctions or other non-U.N.-sponsored action against Syria remains to be seen.

Ms. Nuland said an alliance would grow from the “Friends of Syria” notion, which French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented on Sunday.

Mr. Sarkozy suggested such a group could independently push the Arab League’s plan to urge Mr. Assad to relinquish power.

Ms. Nuland declined to specify who might join such a group, beyond saying that U.S. officials “have a number of European countries interested in this idea [and] a number of Arab countries.”

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About the Author
Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.

His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.

Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...

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