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White House scoffs at Assad’s ‘laughable’ call for Syria referendum

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The Obama administration has dismissed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's call for a constitutional referendum in late February as a bad joke.

"It's actually quite laughable.  It makes a mockery of the Syrian revolution," Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Barack Obama traveled to Wisconsin.

"Promises of reforms have usually been followed by an increase in brutality and have never been delivered upon by this regime since the beginning of the peaceful demonstrations in Syria," Carney said. "The fact of the matter is the Assad regime's days are numbered." Assad ordered the referendum to reshape his strife-torn country from its current autocratic rule--Assad and his late father, Hafez al-Assad, have ruled it with an iron hand for four decades--into a multiparty system, news agencies reported earlier.

But Carney signaled no softening in the American line that Assad must go.

"Members of his regime, senior military and civilian leadership, are demonstrating their own lack of faith in the future of Assad by moving assets out of the country, by preparing to send their family out of the country, and it's clear that Syria's future will not include Assad," Carney said. "It's not a question of if; it's just a question of when."

"We are working in a very focused way with an array of international allies and partners who are friends of Syria, friends of the Syrian people, to add to the pressure being brought to bear on Assad, to isolate him further, and to help bring about a peaceful transition to democracy in Syria," he added.

Olivier Knox is the White House correspondent for Yahoo News.

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