Obama on Syria: U.S. can't be a bystander

As fighting continues in Syria, President Obama indicted that the U.S. could beef up its role there, saying the U.S. cannot be a "bystander" as Syrian President Basha al-Assad continues the "slaughter of innocents."

"It's important that we not be bystanders during these extraordinary events," Mr. Obama said in remarks after a White House meeting with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

The president spoke as an international coalition called "Friends of Syria" meet in Tunisia to discuss the war that has killed at least 5,000 people according to the United Nations in December, even though the death toll is expected to be much higher. At that meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Assad and his supporters will have "more blood on their hands" if the atrocities continue.

Between Clinton and Mr. Obama's remarks, the U.S. gave its harshest public critique of Assad and promised an increased role, but no military assistance was pledged by the U.S. nor the "Friends of Syria" group. Instead, the U.S. and the other nations reaffirmed their commitment to choke off Assad's resources through sanctions and travel bans.

"We are going to continue to keep the pressure up and look for every tool available to prevent the slaughter of innocents in Syria," the president said.

Clinton also said the U.S. is providing $10 million for humanitarian aid, and she called for a cease-fire to ensure the aid reaches the afflicted.

"I have to say that all of us who've been seeing the terrible pictures coming out of Syria and Homs recently recognize it is absolutely imperative for the international community to rally and send clear message to president Assad that it is time for a transition, it is time for that regime to move on," Mr. Obama said.

In Tunis, Clinton applied more pressure on the Chinese and Russians to remove their block to intervention at the United Nations. She said their opposition is "despicable."

Meanwhile, three U.S. senators, including John McCain, top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for the U.S. to provide weapons, intelligence, money and resources to the rebels fighting the Syrian regime.

"If the community of responsible nations is to assist the Syrian people in bringing Assad's violent rule to an end, there can be no substitute for vigorous American leadership," Senator McCain wrote in a statement.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.