The White House said today that Syria would be "better off without" President Bashar Assad as its leader. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during his daily press briefing that Assad had lost his "legitimacy."
Carney's statements are the closest the administration has come to calling for the embattled president to step down. Over the past week, Assad has redoubled his efforts to bring protests under control. His forces have shelled several cities across the country, killing hundreds. Since mid-March, when the protests began, Bloomberg estimates that 2,400 protesters have been killed.
Carney added that the United States would continue to pressure the Syrian government and keep demanding that it act on the "clear demands of the Syrian people."
Earlier, today, for the second time in two weeks, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions on Syria. ABC News reports:
Added to the sanctions list today were the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria, the largest commercial bank in the country, and its Lebanese-based subsidiary, Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank. The banks are accused of aiding Syria's illicit proliferation activities with North Korea. Syria's largest cell phone provider, Syriatel, was also slapped with sanctions because of its owner's role in supporting human rights abuses in the country.
"By exposing Syria's largest commercial bank as an agent for designated Syrian and North Korean proliferators, and by targeting Syria's largest mobile phone operator for being controlled by one of the regime's most corrupt insiders, we are taking aim at the financial infrastructure that is helping provide support to Assad and his regime's illicit activities," David Cohen, the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement.