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Clinton meets with Syrian democracy activists

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Tuesday with U.S.-based Syrian democracy activists as the Obama administration weighed new sanctions on Syria. The meeting came amid mounting calls at the United Nations and in Congress for action against President Bashar Assad's regime, which has intensified a brutal crackdown on opposition demonstrators.

Clinton sat down at the State Department with members of the Syrian-American community to show solidarity with the opposition and express sympathy for those killed, which rights groups now say number nearly 100 since Sunday, the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Syrian troops tightened their grip Tuesday on the city of Hama, an opposition stronghold, sending residents fleeing for their lives.

Clinton "expressed her admiration for the courage of the brave Syrian people who continue to defy the government's brutality in order to express their universal rights," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. Clinton also told the activists that she had "confidence in the Syrian people's ability to chart a new course for Syria," according to Toner.

Monday, President Obama called the violence "outrageous," and Clinton called on the Assad regime to "stop the slaughter" of its own citizens. Clinton also urged the U.N. Security Council to act and implored council members who have opposed action to reconsider their positions.

Tuesday, Italy recalled its ambassador to Syria to protest the suppression of anti-government protests and urged other European nations to do the same.

On Capitol Hill, incensed lawmakers are demanding that more sanctions be imposed on Assad and his inner circle.

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