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White House: New images of torture in Syria 'disturbing'

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Politics,White House,Syria,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Bashar Assad

The White House condemned “systematic torture and killing” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, evidenced in thousands of photographs analyzed in a new report.

“We stand with the rest of the world in horror at these images that have come to light and we condemn in the strongest possible terms the actions of the Assad regime,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday.

Although Carney said the Obama administration could not independently confirm the veracity of the photographs, he said they are “very disturbing images” that “suggest widespread and systematic violations of international law.”

A team of internationally renowned war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts evaluated photographs of 150 dead bodies of alleged detainees in Syrian government custody and found “direct evidence” of torture and abuse they say would stand up in an international criminal tribunal, CNN and The Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday evening.

Opposition groups fighting to oust Assad in Syria for the first time faced Syrian government officials at an international peace conference in Switzerland this week aimed at setting up a transitional government to end the mass slayings and violence in the war-torn country.

The Syrian government openly clashed with the rebels, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in the first day of talks Wednesday, arguing that only the Syrian people can decide the fate of their country while the U.S. insisted that Assad must relinquish his hold on power in any future government.

Carney echoed those sentiments at the White House Wednesday.

“There's no future that the Syrian people would endorse that includes Assad in the government,” he said. “[Assad] has forsaken in bloody fashion any claim he might have to lead the people.”

When asked what the Obama administration would do to help end the mass bloodshed in Syria, Carney said the U.S. would continue sending humanitarian aid and assisting the opposition in its continued efforts to topple Assad.

While Carney said President Obama has not and will not rule out stepping in with military action, he reiterated the president's previous arguments that “we cannot intervene in every civil war” and would instead work with international partners to help bring about a negotiated political settlement.

Reports out of Damascus this week have chronicled the difficulty of delivering food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance to many parts of Syria sealed off by regime forces.

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Susan Crabtree

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner