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Obama confers with Saudi Arabia, Britain on Syria violence

August 13, 2011|By David G. Savage

Reporting from Washington — President Obama spoke by phone Saturday with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and British Prime Minister David Cameron about Syria, and the leaders again called on the Syrian regime to end the “brutal campaign of violence” against its own people.

Syria’s soldiers and police have opened fire on protesters in recent weeks, and activists claim as many as 2,000 people have been killed.

 Last week, Abdullah broke his silence and called on the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to “stop the killing machine.” Abdullah also recalled the Saudi ambassador from Damascus.   

 The White House said the president and the Saudi king “expressed their shared, deep concerns” about the violence in Syria and said it must “end immediately.”

Cameron and Obama also talked about how to end the violence in Syria and agreed on “the Syrian people’s legitimate demands for a transition to democracy,” the White House said.

Activists told Reuters that Syrian troops continued to raid numerous towns on Saturday and killed at least one person as they swept into a coastal city on Saturday, the latest action in a military crackdown that has lasted five months.

The Obama administration announced additional financial sanctions against Syria earlier this week, targeting the Bank of Syria and the country’s largest telecommunications firm, and has urged other countries that do more business with the regime to stop buying Syrian oil and gas.

Although the United States and European Union have previously imposed sanctions on individuals and pressed Assad to make reforms -- the U.N. Security Council issued a statement last week condemning the Syrian government's actions – Western allies have stopped short of saying he should step down.

Western policymakers are concerned about instability in a country with a potent sectarian mix that borders Israel and Lebanon and is allied with Iran.

But last weekend, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, a body of six wealthy Arabian Peninsula kingdoms, also denounced the violence. And on Monday, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors.

David.savage@latimes.com

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