US President Obama led demands by Western countries for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, ending months of prevarication. In a statement issued on Thursday, Obama blamed Assad for “ferocious brutality” and announced fresh sanctions against the Syrian regime, including an asset freeze and a ban on business transactions by American citizens. In an apparently coordinated move to maximize diplomatic pressure, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued simultaneous statements calling Assad to step down “in the best interests of Syria and the unity of its people”. An EU statement made a similar demand and said fresh sanctions were being prepared. However, Russia has demanded Syria be given more time to put reforms in place.