The United States and Britain are demanding new strict international sanctions to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from office, following the country's continued crackdown on protesters.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the world community should escalate pressure on Assad by targeting Syria's oil and gas exports.
The top U.S. diplomat, speaking in Paris, said tough new sanctions against Syria's energy sector would deny the government revenues that fund its "campaign of violence" against pro-democracy protesters.
Related video clip: Syria sanctions
Earlier Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said European Union officials are preparing to discuss sanctions on Syria's oil sector as a way of pressuring Damascus to stop its deadly crackdown on dissent. Hague said there is a "real prospect" that EU officials meeting in Poland later this week will agree to ban the sale of Syrian oil to the 27-nation bloc.
Meanwhile, Damascus saw its first defection of a prominent official to the opposition. The attorney general for the central province of Hama said in a video released late Wednesday that he has resigned in protest over hundreds of killings, arrests and accusations of torture by Syrian security forces.
On video, Adnan Bakkour accused pro-Assad forces of killing 72 prisoners in the province on July 31 before imposing a siege on Hama city in August and killing another 420 people for participating in peaceful protests. He said government forces buried the dead in mass graves and forced him to issue a report blaming the killings on armed gangs.
Bakkour also said an additional 320 people had died from torture at police stations, that 10,000 more had been arbitrarily arrested and that the army had leveled houses while their occupants were still inside.
Syria's state-run SANA news agency says Bakkour was kidnapped earlier this week by "armed terrorist groups" and forced to make his resignation statement under duress. In another video posted to the Internet Thursday, Bakkour denies being kidnapped.
Rights activists and residents say Syrian security forces backed by tanks renewed operations in Hama on Wednesday, hunting for leaders behind the five-month uprising against President Assad and making arrests. Hama has seen some of the country's biggest protests demanding an end to Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.
|Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter|
and discuss them on our Facebook page.