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US calls Syrian minister Assad's 'shameless tool'
US blasts Syrian foreign minister for role in crackdown, calling him Assad's 'shameless tool'
By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) ' The Obama administration is holding Syria's foreign minister personally responsible for crimes committed in the Syrian government's five-month crackdown on popular dissent.

Using uncharacteristically undiplomatic language, the State Department said Wednesday that Walid al-Moallem (WAH-leed MWAH-lehm) was a "shameless tool and a mouthpiece" of Syrian President Bashar Assad. It said he's played a key role in trying to hide his government's brutality and securing the support of Syria's ally Iran.

The U.S. hit al-Moallem and two other senior Syrian officials Tuesday with sanctions for their part in the repression.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said al-Moallem has helped Syria acquire technical and strategic support from Iran on crowd-suppression techniques and "the kinds of brutal violence that we see."

Nuland said al-Moallem "bears personal responsibility as well for the crimes committed."

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