The United States endorsed Wednesday the Arab League's proposal to invoke the United Nations' tough Chapter VII sanctions against the Syrian regime.
But Washington held off from supporting Chapter VII's powers to initiate a military intervention and focused on economic sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's embattled government.
"We the United States hope that all responsible countries will soon join in taking appropriate actions against the Syrian regime, including, if necessary, Chapter 7 action in the UN Security Council, as called for by the Arab League last weekend," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.
"Absent meaningful compliance by the regime with the Annan plan, that is the direction in which we are soon headed."
Washington, the Arab League and allies have been frustrated by the failure so far of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's April peace plan, which saw nearly 300 unarmed UN military observers deployed in Syria to monitor a putative ceasefire that continues to be violated.
Arab League ministers meeting in Doha on Saturday urged the United Nations to invoke Chapter VII to raise pressure on Damascus.
But both the Arab League and the United States have consistently opposed international military intervention in the Syria crisis.
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But, said Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi told reporters the ministers "did not request a military action."
The Arab ministers urged the "Security Council to assume responsibilities according to the UN charter, and take all necessary measures to secure the full and immediate implementation of the plan of the joint envoy, Kofi Annan, in a set timeframe," in a statement at the end of the meeting.
Geithner, speaking at a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on economic sanctions, stressed that cutting off the Damascus regime's access to the global economic and financial system can "hasten a political change that puts an end to 15 months of violence."
"Strong sanctions, effectively implemented, aggressively enforced, can help deprive the Syrian regime of the resources it needs to sustain itself and to continue its repression of the Syrian people," he said.
Tighter sanctions "can help hasten the day the Assad regime relinquishes power."
Chapter VII of the UN charter outlines action the UN Security Council might take, including military force, in response to threats to international peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression.
But it also gives room for strong economic actions. Article 41 says such measures can include "complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations."
Geithner applauded recent sanctions actions by Turkey and Qatar and urged countries which have not yet adopted formal sanctions against the Syrian regime and its supporters "to do so."
"We see no justification for allowing senior members of the Assad regime to have the benefit of accessing the global financial system."