U.S. mulling 'targeted sanctions' on Syria

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The United States is considering imposing "targeted sanctions" against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday.

Carney said the United States is looking at "a range of options, " but he refused to get into the specifics.

"What we have seen is that sanctions can put pressure on governments and regimes to change their behavior, and I think that would be obviously the goal of this," he told reporters at a briefing.

He said the United States continues to urge Assad to "honor" the promises to "institute reforms" and "cease violence."

Media reports said here on Monday that the United States is preparing targeted sanctions, including assets freeze and travel bans, against Assad, his family and his inner circle.

Washington has been stepping up criticism on the Syrian government. On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the use of force against demonstrators in Syria.

Last week, a Washington Post story, based on newly-leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, said that the U.S. State Department has been secretly financing Syrian political opposition, even as the Obama administration sought to improve relations with the Syrian government and has recently sent an ambassador to Damascus -- for the first time in six years.

The United States withdrew its ambassador from Damascus in February 2005, after the assassination of then Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Syria was accused of having orchestrated the killing, though it has vehemently denied any involvement. The Bush administration before Obama also imposed economic sanctions on Syria.

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