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Obama Calls For Syria's President To Resign


President Obama today released a written statement calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign. In his statement, President Obama condemned, quote, "the disgraceful attacks on Syrian civilians." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed that call in an announcement from the State Department.

HILLARY CLINTON: Good morning, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So what effect is this statement likely to have on the Syrian government?

KELEMEN: So she says those are calls that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can't ignore, unlike what the, you know, U.S. has been saying.

GREENE: Well, the Obama administration postponed calling for Assad's resignation, with Secretary Clinton saying that there needed to be this global consensus, as you're suggesting. Is that consensus forming? I mean, is this likely to start creating, you know, the space for other countries to start chiming in?

KELEMEN: You've also had Ban Ki-moon, the U.N.'s secretary general, calling Assad and talking to him about this, calling for an end to the violence. Interestingly enough, a statement from the U.N. said that Assad has promised that the military action is ending. So it's very interesting timing, here.

GREENE: Fluid. The sanctions that President Obama has now imposed, how extensive are they?

KELEMEN: Much more so than what we've seen to date. I mean, previously, they've had travel bans and asset freezes of specific officials in Assad's government. Today, the U.S. blocked the property and interests of the government of Syria in the U.S. They've imposing sanctions on any import of petroleum products that originate in Syria. And the other part is the Americans can no longer invest in Syria.

GREENE: President Obama, and also Secretary Clinton, they made it very clear that the Syrian people need to determine their own future. Why was it so important for them to put that language in?

KELEMEN: And she said specifically today that Syrians don't want international involvement, and that the U.S. government is going to respect that.

GREENE: NPR's Michele Kelemen, thanks for joining us.

KELEMEN: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.