(WASHINGTON) -- Two U.S. senators said Tuesday that the time has come to get tough with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who ignored a ceasefire plan in order to continue his onslaught against pro-democracy rebels.
Traveling in Turkey, Arizona Republican John McCain and Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman renewed their call for arming anti-Syrian government forces despite misgivings by the Obama administration that such action could prolong the conflict.
Al-Assad was supposed to have ordered a withdrawal of soldiers and heavy artillery from population centers on Tuesday as directed by a six-point plan crafted by United Nations special emissary Kofi Annan. However, when rebels balked at new conditions demands by al-Assad, the crackdown that has left more than 9,000 dead in the past 13 months showed no signs of abating.
Touring a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey, McCain and Lieberman urged the international community to provide weapons to al-Assad's foes to "change the balance of power on the ground."
Acknowledging White House concerns that the rebels may be too closely allied to al Qaeda militants, the senators said that doing nothing at this point would be worse, adding, "If responsible nations abandon the people of Syria, we should not be surprised if they increasingly turn to violent extremists for help."
Meanwhile, Annan said Tuesday that he doesn't believe his peace proposal has totally collapsed although al-Assad's seeming rejection of its provisions fits previous patterns of disregarding other ceasefire agreements.
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