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Assad must step down, says Obama

The time has come for Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign for the sake of his brutally repressed people, US President Barack Obama has declared.

In a stinging written statement, Mr Obama said Mr Assad had overseen a vicious onslaught of his people as they protested for freedoms.

He said the Syrian people will decide their country's future but Mr Assad is standing in their way and must go.

Mr Obama said Mr Assad's calls for reform ring hollow while he is "imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people".

This was Mr Obama's first explicit call for Mr Assad to step down.

His administration is also slapping new sanctions on Syria.

The statement comes after Syrian troops shot dead nine people despite Mr Assad reportedly telling the UN chief that military operations in his country have ended.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Co-ordination Committees, a group which documents anti-regime protests, said the latest shooting took place in the city of Homs.

The groups said most of the shooting happened late on Wednesday after many Muslims attended special prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Mr Assad has unleashed tanks and ground troops in rebellious areas, escalating the assault dramatically since Ramadan started this month and killing hundreds.

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