US tells Syrian government to ‘stop the slaughter’

WASHINGTON (AP) ? The Obama administration is ratcheting up its condemnation of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s violent crackdown on pro-reform protesters, calling on the regime to “stop the slaughter” of its own citizens.

President Barack Obama on Monday met with U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who is in Washington for consultations. Obama said the latest attacks on demonstrators, launched as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (RAH’-mah-dahn) began, were “outrageous.” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham called on Assad “to stop the slaughter now” and urged U.N. Security Council action.

Earlier, Syrian forces shelled the city of Hama for a second day and fired at worshippers heading to Ramadan prayers. Violence on Sunday left 74 people dead throughout the country, 55 of them from Hama and nearby, according to rights groups.