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Sham News Network, via APTN) TV OUT, Associated Press
In this image taken from amateur video made available by Sham News Network in Syria on Tuesday Dec. 13, 2011, shows pro-government militia on the street in Daraa Syria Tuesday.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is predicting the demise of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A State Department official likens Assad's authoritarian rule to a "dead man walking," with his brutal crackdown on pro-reform demonstrators and increasing international isolation.

Frederic Hof is the State Department's point man on Syria.

He's told Congress that Assad's repression means he may be able to hang on to power but only for a short time.

Hof is urging the Syrian opposition to prepare for the day when it takes control of the state, so it can prevent chaos and sectarian conflict.

The administration is reaching out to the opposition and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met last week with members of an umbrella group of Assad foes.