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US calls for broader international sanctions on Syria

Stepped up diplomatic activity may further antagonize Russia and China, who issued a statement on Wednesday opposing any outside efforts to promote regime change in Syria.

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This image from a citizen journalist purports to show Syrian rebels gathered on their vehicle in the northern town of Kfar Nebel, Syria, on Tuesday.

/Edlib News Network ENN/AP

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A group of 60 countries led by the United States called for stronger sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Wednesday, on the eve of a meeting in Istanbul where the Friends of Syria group will consider means of precipitating Mr. Assad’s departure from power.

The flurry of diplomatic activity comes in what US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner described at Wednesday’s meeting in Washington as “the shadow of a massacre” after last month’s killings of more than 100 civilians in the city of Houla.

But the calls for a tightening squeeze on Assad also continue to hit the by-now familiar wall of resistance from Russia and China, which oppose additional measures against the Syrian regime. The two powers issued a statement Wednesday rejecting any outside efforts to promote regime change in Syria.

At the Washington meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on Sanctions, Secretary Geithner called on countries that have not yet imposed sanctions on Syria to do so, and he promoted stepped-up coordination of national sanctions as a means of tightening the noose on Assad.

Geithner also laid out on the table the eventual adoption by the United Nations Security Council of measures authorizing the use of international force in Syria – as recommended, Geithner noted, by the Arab League last weekend. But that step appears quite unlikely, given that both Russia and China hold veto power over Security Council action.

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