Western powers are sending a message to Syria -- that they no longer see the point of engaging with President Bashar Assad as they push for an end to his government's violent crackdown on protesters.

The U.S. is closing its embassy in Damascus, and Britain has recalled its ambassador. The British foreign secretary calls the Syrian government "a doomed regime as well as a murdering regime."

U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford and 17 other U.S. officials have left Syria, and are expected to travel back to the United States. President Barack Obama tells NBC that the administration has been "relentless" in letting the Syrian regime know that "it is time for Assad to go."

Syrian forces intensified a shelling assault on the city of Homs over the weekend as Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council effort to end the violence. Today, the most serious violence in Syria is again reported in Homs. Several neighborhoods there are under the control of rebels.

Activists say regime forces using tanks and machine guns shelled a makeshift medical clinic and residential areas, killing a reported 40 people. More than a dozen others were reported killed elsewhere.


(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)