Clinton in Cairo - Reuters - March 15, 2011
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference with Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby in Cairo March 15, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the Syrian government on Tuesday for the harsh way it had responded to pro-democracy protests, while the State Department spokesman said Syria must make more progress on reforms.

"In a series of side meetings I also had the chance to discuss a number of issues, including Syria," Clinton said after a London meeting of international powers on Libya.

"I expressed our strong condemnation of the Syrian government's brutal repression of demonstrators, in particular the violence and killing of civilians in the hands of security forces," she added.

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad must make more progress on political reforms and should meet the needs and aspirations of his citizens.

"We believe President Assad is at a crossroads. He has claimed to be a reformer for over a decade but he has made no substantive progress on political reforms and we urge him to ... address the needs and the aspirations of the Syrian people," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

"He has claimed the mantle of reform and he has implemented some economic reforms but on the political side he needs to make more progress frankly -- substantive progress," Toner said.

Assad, who has ruled Syria since the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, in 2000, accepted his government's resignation on Tuesday after nearly two weeks of pro-democracy unrest that has posed the gravest challenge to his 11-year rule. But the move was unlikely to satisfy protester demands since the cabinet has little authority in Syria, where power is concentrated in the hands of Assad, his family and the security apparatus.

Asked to comment on the government's resignation, Toner said: "It is unclear, frankly, what has happened."