US weighing oil sanctions, war crimes referral for Syria’s Assad

Jun 17, 2011 3:09pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia (@KiritRadia_ABC) reports:

The Obama administration is exploring how and whether to impose sanctions on Syria, including on the country's oil and gas sector. The U.S. is also discussing whether President Assad could be accused of war crimes for his military's violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, according to a senior administration official.

The official wouldn't get into specifics, but another official said the U.S. is discussing efforts to pressure the Assad regime with allies around the world, including in the region with Turkey and the Arab countries. The U.S. is also stepping up its contacts with Syria's opposition.

The second official, in a conference call with reporters, says Assad has also begun talking to some opposition figures, but with violence continuing the official described those efforts as "superficial."

The official said there are at least 19 dead throughout the country from violence today, though peaceful protests were allowed elsewhere.

The officials said Iran has been supplying Syria with advice and equipment used in the crackdown.

They defended the U.S. keeping its ambassador in Damascus, saying his ability to meet with opposition figures and report back has been critical.

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