President Barack Obama is telling Syrian leader Bashar Assad that he must either lead his country through a democratic transition or "get out of the way," the first direct U.S. challenge to the Assad family's decades-long autocratic grip on power.
In a broad speech outlining U.S. policy in the Middle East and North Africa amid upheaval in the Arab world, Obama said Thursday that Syria's brutal crackdown on pro-reform activists is unacceptable. He said Assad could no longer rule through repression and must change course if he wants international acceptance. More than 850 people are believed to have been killed in two months of unrest in Syria.
Obama's speech came a day after he imposed sanctions on Assad and six other officials for human rights abuses during the crackdown.