WASHINGTON -- The United States says it will consider taking "additional measures" to end the bloodshed in Syria if an international outcry and a strengthened sanctions regime do not convince the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its crackdown on the opposition.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in response to a reporter's question on whether Washington is considering arming rebel groups, "We don't believe that it makes sense to contribute now to the further militarization of Syria," but "we may have to consider additional measures."
She did not specify which actions would be considered.
The statement comes ahead of Friday's Western-backed international conference in Tunis about the Syrian crisis, which Russia has declared it will not attend.
Meanwhile, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 33 civilians were killed on February 21 during army raids on villages in Syria's northern Idlib Province.
Activists earlier said at least 16 civilians were killed in the shelling of antiregime strongholds in the central city of Homs, which has been under siege for 18 straight days.
Elsewhere, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos called on Syria to allow aid groups unimpeded access to the country.
The International Committee of the Red Cross also called for a daily cease-fire of at least two hours in Syria to allow emergency aid to reach civilians.
Rights groups estimate that at least 6,000 people have been killed since the popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime began a year ago.
With agency reports