The United States and European Union said Tuesday they are preparing to hit Syria's leadership with new sanctions as it continues a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters that Washington and Brussels were reviewing fresh penalties and would act fast.
"We will be taking additional steps in the days ahead," Clinton said after meeting Ashton at the State Department.
"There will be a number of moves in the coming hours and days that you will see," Ashton said.
American officials said the US sanctions would be announced before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on developments in the Middle East and North Africa on Thursday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the penalties are still in the works. Neither they nor Clinton would be more specific about the scope of the new sanctions.
The US and EU have already imposed sanctions on selected members of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. Those sanctions have not yet targeted Assad himself, though.
Clinton and Ashton said they were increasingly alarmed by developments in Syria where more than 850 people have been killed in more than a month of violence. They said the Assad regime was running out of time to change course and forestall new international measures against it.
"They have embraced the worst tactics of their Iranian ally, and they have refused to honor the legitimate aspirations of their own people in Syria," Clinton said. "President Assad talks about reform, but his heavy-handed, brutal crackdown shows his true intentions."
"This is extremely urgent and if the government, as it keeps telling us it does, wants to see some kind of change, it's got to be now," Ashton said.
Clinton repeated demands for Syria to stop the violence, end widespread arrests and release all political prisoners.
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