In a choreographed diplomatic squeeze play, President Barack Obama, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany and the European Union joined Thursday to demand that Syrian President Bashar Assad resign, saying his brutal suppression of his people had made him unfit to lead.
The coordinated messages from Washington, London, Paris, Berlin and Brussels were accompanied by a U.N. recommendation that Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation of atrocities and by tough new U.S. sanctions freezing all Syrian government assets in the U.S. and targeting the country's lucrative energy sector.
The moves intensified already mounting pressure on Assad, who has refused to ease his regime's ruthless crackdown on a five-month old opposition uprising and has backed away from promises of reform. Instead, he has unleashed his security forces on numerous cities, killing nearly 2,000 people, many of them innocent civilians, according to rights groups.
The resignation calls were the first explicit demands from the U.S. and its allies for Assad to step down although condemnation of his actions had been mounting for weeks since the regime ordered a sustained assault on its opponents on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that began in early August.
In a written statement released by the White House, Obama said Assad had lost all credibility as a leader and had to go.