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UN council issues tepid rebuke of Syria. Does it want to avoid another Libya?

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The cautious international response took place as Friday protests in Syria reportedly erupted even in the heart of Damascus, where little public dissent had occurred over the past week of bloody demonstrations elsewhere. Reports from inside the country, difficult to confirm because foreign journalists are being kept out, claimed that perhaps “dozens” of people were killed Friday.

The council’s action in Geneva was followed in Washington by the US government’s first new sanctions on Syria since this year’s popular upheaval across the Middle East began pitting governments against their populations.

President Obama on Friday signed an executive order imposing sanctions on three Syrian officials and two organizations – Syria’s intelligence agency and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard CorpsQods Force – in connection with the government’s violent actions.

The Syrian officials, including two relatives of President Assad, are not thought to have many assets in the US, so the action freezing all US-based assets is unlikely to have much real impact. But US officials say the idea is primarily to send a message to Syria, including to Assad himself, that sticking to the course of violent repression will lead to additional – and stronger – action.

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