News / Middle East

Clinton: Syria Death Toll Exceeds 2,000

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (r) with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird at the State Department in Washington,  Aug. 4, 2011
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (r) with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird at the State Department in Washington, Aug. 4, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that U.S. officials believe more than 2,000 people have been killed in the Syrian government’s months-long crackdown on dissent.  Meeting her Canadian counterpart, Clinton appealed for a “louder, more effective” international response to the violence.  

Clinton said the U.N. Security Council’s presidential statement late Wednesday condemning Syrian human rights violations reflects a growing international consensus against the violence, which she said has claimed more than 2,000 lives.

But she said it will take more to stop the killing and that European and Arab countries need to join the United States in imposing tougher sanctions and other penalties against the Damascus government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Clinton met with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird after the U.S. Treasury Department added another prominent Syrian businessman and Assad associate, Muhammad Hamsho, to its list of Syrians facing a U.S. asset freeze and business blacklist.

Clinton said the United States is committed to doing all it can, including additional sanctions, to curb the abuses.  But she said the U.S. effort needs help from countries with broader business dealings with Syria.

“But not just U.S. sanctions because, frankly, we do not have lot of business with Syria," said Secretary Clinton. "We need to get Europeans and others [involved].  We need to get the Arab states.  We need to get a much louder, more effective chorus of voices that are putting pressure on the Assad regime, and we’re working to obtain that.”

Canadian Foreign Minister Baird said the international response on Syria has been hampered by the lack of the kind of mandate in the United Nations that authorized military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

“The situation in Syria, the actions of the Assad regime, are obviously abhorrent," said Baird. "The way they’ve acted in recent weeks, months, even in the last 48 hours in Hama, is absolutely disgraceful.  Regrettably, we don’t have the same amount of international support at the U.N. for this.  So I think in the absence of that, what we’ve got to continue to do is to work with like-minded allies.  There’s no country who can single-handedly tackle this challenge.”

Suggesting that international outrage on Syria is growing, Clinton said the consensus in the U.N. Security Council for the statement approved on Wednesday could not have been achieved just a week ago.

“The step that we did see made last night in the Security Council was the first step in what we hope will be continuing steps to try to unite the world in both rhetorical outrage, but in actions that will send a very clear message to the Assad regime, the insiders there, that there’s a price to pay for this kind of abuse and attacks on their own people," said Clinton.

Earlier, the State Department dismissed as “empty rhetoric” an announcement by the Syrian leader that he would allow reforms -- including letting opposition parties operate for the first time.

It said U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who is in Washington this week for his Senate confirmation hearing, will return to his post on Friday, despite Congressional calls that he be withdrawn to protest Syria's actions.   

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