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Monday
Aug152011

US: "Inconsistencies" in Reports About Syrian Naval Attack on Port City

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- State Department spokesperson Victorial Nuland said Monday that the U.S. sees a number of "inconsistencies" in reports that the Syrian navy has taken part in the shelling of the port city of Latakia.
 
"There are some inconsistencies in -- about -- with regard to what Syria actually has," she told reporters. Nuland declined to elaborate on what those discrepancies may be, but only added that the U.S. hasn't seen the firing from the sea itself.
 
A State Department official, speaking on background, says that the U.S. doesn't believe the Syrian gunboats have the capability to shell the town like reports indicate, hence Nuland's hesitation.
 
"We have been unable to confirm, actually, the use of naval assets. However, we are able to confirm that there is armor in the city, and that there is firing on innocents again in the pattern of carnage that you have seen in other places.  So we are concerned," she said, describing the violence there and in other parts of Syria as "carnage."
 
Nuland tried to defend the Obama administration's efforts to halt the Assad regime's crackdown, which have consisted thus far of unilateral sanctions and slowly harsher condemnation of the violence.
 
"So far they do not appear to be listening.  But we do believe that there is more that can be done. As the secretary said on Thursday, there are countries out there that are still trading oil and gas with Syria.  There are countries out there that have not renounced their willingness to send arms to Syria. So we are working to strengthen that coalition and continue to ensure that the message from the international community has teeth," she said.
 
Turkey on Monday gave Syrian President Bashar Assad an ultimatum to reform or else -- a follow-up on a visit to Damascus by the Turkish foreign minister last week.
 
The Obama administration is still planning to call on Assad to step down should the attacks continue, and is hoping to coordinate this with other countries like Turkey. Turkey and others had asked the U.S. to hold off in order for their diplomatic efforts to bear fruit, but Monday's Turkish announcement is a sign they're preparing to take the next step as well. A U.S. official tells ABC News a new executive order has been prepared in order to hit Assad with more sanctions in coordination with the declaration that would come from the president.
 
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