(WASHINGTON) -- A top White House official warned Syria on Wednesday that failure to end 15 months of violence will result in extreme economic penalties for the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking at a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People in Washington, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner decried the continued crackdown on al-Assad's enemies and his defiance of a six-point ceasefire pact crafted by United Nations special emissary Kofi Annan.
In the toughest threat yet from the administration, Geithner said that harsher economic sanctions from the United Nations would be on the way if the Syrian president doesn't step down and allow a reformist government to take his place.
According to the treasury chief, "Strong sanctions effectively implemented, aggressively enforced, can help deprive the Syrian regime of the resources it needs to sustain itself and to continue its repression of the Syrian people."
Geithner added that the sanctions are not intended to hurt the Syrian people, who he says have suffered needlessly under al-Assad's regime.
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