Bashar Assad
Bashar Assad Reuters

The White House said on Monday that Syrian President Bashar Assad was lying when he denied his regime had any involvement in the massacre of more than 100 civilians near the central town of Houla.

AFP reported that President Barack Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, said it was vital that there be international unity against Assad.

Asked if Assad lied on the weekend when he denied his forces fired on innocent civilians near Houla, Carney said, “Yes,” adding, “As evidenced by the very massacres that the Assad regime participated in and is now denying, the sooner that political transition takes place, the better for the people of Syria, and the better the chances that a bloody sectarian war will be avoided.”

According to Carney, “The longer that Assad continues to essentially wage war on his own people... brutally murder, execute his own people, the greater the chance that that situation will dissolve into a sectarian civil war and will spill over its borders and cause instability in the region.”

In a speech to the new Syrian parliament on Sunday, Assad said, “What happened in Houla is a massacre that we have not seen even from monstrous predators.” He rejected claims that his regime's military forces were responsible for the massacre.

His reaction came after Arab ministers urged the United Nations to act to stop the bloodshed, and France raised the prospect of military action against Damascus under a UN mandate.

AFP quoted State Department spokesman Mark Toner as having said on Monday that Assad was “remarkably out of touch with the reality of the situation on the ground in Syria, especially his comments about the massacre in Houla.”

Carney, meanwhile, said, “It's obvious that history will judge Assad as a brutal dictator who murdered his own people. History will judge those who supported Assad and continue to support Assad accordingly.”

Carney’s remarks were a veiled reference to Russia, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused of "propping up" Assad with continued arms shipments.

Russia has backed Assad throughout his crackdown on anti-regime protesters and has vetoed UN Security Council motions to act against him.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned last week of an “extremely dangerous” situation in Syria and emerging signs of a civil war, but continued to reject a military intervention.