LONDON: Seven Western governments expelled Syrian diplomats from their capitals in a coordinated action against President Bashar al-Assad`s government spurred by revulsion over the killing of more than 100 civilians in a Syrian town.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called Assad a murderer and Australia`s Bob Carr said those responsible for the massacre at Houla would be held to account.
"Bashar al-Assad is the murderer of his people. He must relinquish power. The sooner the better," Fabius said in an interview with French daily Le Monde.
Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Spain announced the expulsions after consultations with each other on what they called unacceptable levels of violence.
The action marked a new phase in the international effort to halt the repression of a 14-month-old uprising against Assad and to force him to relinquish power.
The immediate catalyst was Friday`s massacre in Houla, including women and children, although the international community is increasingly frustrated at the failure of a U.N.-brokered peace plan to end the bloodshed in Syria.
"This is a country that is committing such horrors that we cannot deal with them at an ambassador level," a French diplomatic source said. "This decision was made following the Houla massacre. It was coordinated among several countries." (Antara/Reuters/tw)