President Obama Says Assad Should ‘Step Aside,’ Announces New Sanctions On Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

This morning, President Obama issued his harshest statement yet about the violence against civilians in Syria, saying, “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” The statement from the White House included an announcement of sweeping new sanctions designed to “deepen the financial isolation of the Assad regime.” The newly announced sanctions, implemented through executive order, were described by Obama:

I have signed a new Executive Order requiring the immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria. This E.O. also bans U.S. imports of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products; prohibits U.S. persons from having any dealings in or related to Syria’s petroleum or petroleum products; and prohibits U.S. persons from operating or investing in Syria.

Also in the statement today, Obama “cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders.” Secretary of State Hillarly Clinton reiterated Obama’s stance in a statement to the press this morning:

CLINTON: The transition to democracy in Syria has begun and it’s time for Assad to get out of the way. As President Obama said this morning, no outside power can or should impose on this transition. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders in a democratic system based on the rule of law and dedicated to protecting the rights of all citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion, sect or gender. We understand the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle and we respect their wishes. At the same time, we will do our part to support their aspirations for a Syria that is democratic, just and inclusive.

Watch it: