By David Gollust
The Obama administration and the European Union vowed on Tuesday to take “additional steps” in the days ahead to pressure Syria over its deadly crackdown on protesters.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Washington, alongside European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who said she is “very worried” about the escalating government actions against protesters in Syria.
Both the U.S. and EU have already imposed sanctions against senior Syrian officials in response to the crackdown, which Clinton estimates has killed nearly 1,000 people.
Ashton said the time is now for the Syrian government to make changes. She called the number of people killed and in detention “extremely alarming.” She said the situation is so grave that the international community needs to consider all options, and predicted “a number of moves” in the coming days.
Meanwhile Tuesday, an official with Syria’s Interior Ministry told the state news agency that reports of a mass grave in the southern city of Daraa are completely false. The official said the reports are part of a campaign of incitement against Syria.
Daraa residents and human rights activists say locals discovered the grave on the outskirts of the town, but authorities later blocked access to the area to prevent removal of the bodies.
The Syrian army entered Daraa last month to put down anti-government protests.
Activists say more than 850 civilians have been killed across the country since mid-March when protesters began calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s resignation. Authorities have arrested at least 7,000 more as part of the crackdown.
On Tuesday, Syrian activists called for a general strike Wednesday in protest of the crackdown. The announcement was posted on the Facebook page of Internet-based opposition group Syrian Revolution 2011.