Washington Prepares New Syrian Sanctions

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Washington is readying new Syrian sanctions, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said as the United Nations censured Assad-regime violence against civilians.

“We are exploring broader sanctions that will isolate the Assad regime politically and deny it revenue with which to sustain its brutality,” Clinton said of new targeted sanctions being prepared, without saying what they’d involve.

The “strong action by the Security Council on the targeting of innocent civilians in Syria is long overdue,” she added, rebuking countries that had blocked diplomatic efforts to denounce President Bashar Assad to stop the slaughter of his own citizens.

The Security Council Wednesday unanimously approved a statement condemning “widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.”

The 15-member council expressed “grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria,” but mandated no specific actions by the international community.

It called on Syrian authorities to grant full and unimpeded access to international humanitarian and human-rights agencies, and appealed to “all sides to act with utmost restraint” and to “refrain from reprisals, including attacks on state institutions.”

The action came as a “presidential statement,” a step below a resolution.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said later the lower-level statement was no compromise, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

The council agreed to meet again on Syria next week.

The statement came as Syrian tanks, armored vehicles and snipers conducted the fourth day of an assault on Hama, a rebellious city that has emerged as a linchpin of the nearly five-month uprising.

“It’s a massacre. It’s 1982 all over again,” activist Saleh Hamawi told The Washington Post by satellite phone, his voice quaking as the sound of explosions echoed in the background.

A massacre by Assad’s father, Hafez Assad, in 1982 killed an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 people.

In the past four days of brutality, at least 100 people have died, rights groups said.

Concerning sanctions, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters, “We’re working with Congress, certainly, but in the meantime we are looking at additional steps we can take to increasingly isolate Assad.”

The House and Senate concluded their formal business this week after passing a contentious bill to raise the government’s debt ceiling. Most lawmakers are out of town until the second week of September.

Before leaving town, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., prepared a bill that called on U.S. President Barack Obama to block Syrian access to the U.S. financial system and markets, and to block federal contracts for companies that invest in Syria’s energy sector.

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