WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House repeated on Thursday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had lost his legitimacy to rule.

President Barack Obama said earlier that Muammar Gaddafi's death showed that "the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end."

Asked whether that statement was meant to send a message to Assad, who has led a military crackdown on seven months of pro-democracy protests, White House spokesman Jay Carney stuck to familiar language about Syria. "The president believes that Syria's leader has lost his legitimacy to rule," Carney said.

(Reporting by Alister Bull, Jeff Mason and Laura MacInnis, Editing by Sandra Maler)