Obama: Assad has no right to lead Syria
WASHINGTON- President Barack Obama on Saturday accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government of murdering civilians in an "unspeakable assault" in the city of Homs, and demanded that Assad step down.
"Assad has no right to lead Syria, and has lost all legitimacy with his people and the international community," Obama said.
"Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now. He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately," Obama said in a statement.
The US president's blunt condemnation came amid reports that more than 200 civilians were killed by Syrian forces in a night of shelling of residential areas in the flashpoint city of Homs.
The UN Security Council was set to meet and discuss a draft resolution condemning the Assad regime and endorsing an Arab League plan for a political transition, while Russia's foreign minister planned to meet the Syrian leader in Damascus next week.
"Yesterday the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help," Obama said.
"I strongly condemn the Syrian government's unspeakable assault against the people of Homs and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones," he said.
Obama said the Security Council "now has an opportunity to stand against the Assad regime's relentless brutality and to demonstrate that it is a credible advocate for the universal rights that are written into the UN Charter."
Western diplomats at the United Nations said they were determined to vote Saturday on a resolution condemning the bloodshed in Syria, despite strong Russian objections.
"We expect a vote today," British UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.
The Western-Arab draft resolution would require Assad to abide by an Arab League timetable for political reform, including his resignation.
Russia, which wields a veto on the Security Council, has refused to support the resolution and Russian officials said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would travel to Damascus on Tuesday for talks with Assad on a "political solution."
Obama, meanwhile, pledged to work with the Syrians "toward building a brighter future," for the country.
"Every government has the responsibility to protect its citizens, and any government that brutalizes and massacres its people does not deserve to govern," he said.
"The Syrian regime's policy of maintaining power by terrorizing its people only indicates its inherent weakness and inevitable collapse.