Obama seeks world consensus on Syria

By Associated Press Associated Press
August 14, 2011

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WASHINGTON - President Obama reached out to the leaders of Britain and Saudi Arabia yesterday to build consensus for an end to the violent crackdown by Syria’s government.

The White House said Obama spoke to British Prime Minister David Cameron and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, both of whom agreed that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government must end its attacks on civilians.

While the United States has condemned the violence in Syria and said Assad has lost legitimacy, Obama has stopped short of explicitly calling for him to leave power. A US official said Friday that the demand for Assad to step down would come “sooner rather than later.’’

Some of the hesitation reflects concern about adopting a more aggressive tone without adequate support from European allies and Arab partners.

The White House said Obama and Cameron agreed to closely monitor the actions of the Syrian government and consult on further steps in the coming days. The Saudi king also agreed to consult closely with Obama, the White House said.

The United States issued new penalties against Syria this month, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has also called for a global trade embargo on oil and gas from the nation.

Antigovernment protests in Syria have grown dramatically over the past five months, driven in part by anger over the government’s bloody crackdown in which rights groups say at least 1,700 civilians have been killed.

President aims to direct anger toward Congress WASHINGTON - President Obama says people are frustrated by the partisanship that has gridlocked Washington and he wants them to tell lawmakers they must compromise for the sake of the country.

Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address yesterday to try to position himself on the side of the public and against a Congress with abysmal approval ratings after the bitter fight over the US borrowing limit.

Obama’s approval ratings aren’t so good, either. But the president clearly sees a need to direct the public’s anger toward Congress or risk being targeted as the 2012 campaign revs up.

“You’ve got a right to be frustrated,’’ the president said. “You deserve better. I don’t think it’s too much for you to expect that the people you send to this town start delivering.’’

“If you agree with me - whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican or not much of a fan of either - let them know.’’

The president listed several initiatives he’s pushing, including trade deals, improvements to the patent system, and an extension of a cut in the tax that workers pay to fund Social Security.

“These are all things we can do right now. So let’s do them,’’ said Obama, who will repeat his economic message during a three-day Midwestern bus tour beginning tomorrow.

Republicans used their weekly address to criticize Obama on the economy, particularly government regulations that Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, said burdened businesses and discouraged them from expanding and hiring.