WASHINGTON (AP) – Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Syrian President Bashar Assad is taking his country to the brink of civil war.

Rice tells CNN’s “State of the Union” that Assad’s crackdown is creating a very dangerous situation.

She says Assad “is no friend of the United States” and that his overthrow would be a “great thing” for the Syrian people, U.S. interests and anyone seeking a more peaceful Middle East.

Rice is calling for the “toughest” possible penalties against Assad’s government.

She says that if Russia and China block U.N. sanctions, the U.S. should apply pressure with its allies or act alone. Rice also is urging more assistance to Syria’s opposition.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.