White House: Assad lying over regime's role in Houla massacre
WASHINGTON - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was lying when he denied his regime had any involvement in the massacre of more than 100 civilians near the central town of Houla, the White House said Monday.
Asked if Assad lied at the weekend when he denied his forces fired on innocent civilians near Houla, President Barack Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, said: "Yes.
"As evidenced by the very massacres that the Assad regime participated in and is now denying, the sooner that political transition takes place, the better for the people of Syria, and the better the chances that a bloody sectarian war will be avoided," he told reporters.
"The longer that Assad continues to essentially wage war on his own people... brutally murder, execute his own people, the greater the chance that that situation will dissolve into a sectarian civil war and will spill over its borders and cause instability in the region," Carney said.
In a Sunday speech to parliament, a defiant Assad said that even "monsters" were incapable of carrying out massacres such as last month's killing of 108 people, including 49 children, near Houla.
His reaction came after Arab ministers urged the United Nations to act to stop the bloodshed, and France raised the prospect of military action against Damascus under a UN mandate.
The United States has reacted with outrage over the Houla attack and last week expelled Syrian diplomats in concert with several other nations.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Monday said Assad was "remarkably out of touch with the reality of the situation on the ground in Syria, especially his comments about the massacre in Houla."
Carney, Obama's spokesman, said it was vital that there be international unity against Assad, in a veiled reference to Russia which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused of "propping up" Assad with continued arms shipments.
Russia has resisted UN Security Council efforts to act against the Assad regime, a longtime ally of Moscow, questioning the effectiveness of sanctions and warning that outside meddling could lead to civil war.
"It's obvious that history will judge Assad as a brutal dictator who murdered his own people," Carney said.
"History will judge those who supported Assad and continue to support Assad accordingly."