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U.S. Sanctions Syrian Leadership Over Rights Abuses

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (file photo)
The United States has imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and six senior Syrian officials for human rights abuses.

The announcement comes a day before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on the uprisings throughout the Arab world.

The document distributed by the State Department says Obama signed the executive order to "increase pressure on the government of Syria to end its use of violence and begin transitioning to a democratic system that ensures the universal rights of the Syrian people."

Beside Assad, the order targets Vice President Faruq al-Shara, Prime Minister Adel Safar, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar, Defense Minister Ali Habib Mahmud, military intelligence chief Abdul Fatah Qudsiya, and Mohammed Dib Zaitoun, director of the Political Security Directorate.

The sanctions block any property the seven have in the United States or any "in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which the designated individuals have an interest."

Activists say at least 800 people have been killed by security forces in the repression of Syria's nine-week uprising.

Assad was quoted today in the official media as saying that the military had made "mistakes" in handling the revolt, but adding that the crisis was "nearing its end."

Meanwhile, activists say Syrian security forces killed at least eight people today in Tall Kalakh, a town on the border with Lebanon that has been under siege since May 13.

compiled from agency reports