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A protest sign outside the Syrian embassy in London today. Clive Gee/PA Wire

US, EU countries announce expulsion of Syrian diplomats

Expulsions come in the wake of the killing of 108 people in Syria’s Houla area on Friday.

GOVERNMENTS IN SEVERAL countries have today expelled Syrian diplomats in protest over the killing of more than 100 civilians in the Houla area of Syria on Friday.

One hundred and eight people, including 40 children, were killed and video footage of the massacre showed signs of close-range shootings and severe physical abuse. The Syrian government has been accused of backing the attacks, but denies any involvement.

The UK, Netherlands, Buglaria, Germany, Canada, Australia, Italy and the US have announced the expulsion of Syrian diplomats.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said today that his country was “acting with its partners” in taking diplomatic action in light of Friday’s killings.

In a statement today, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Syria’s most senior diplomat was being expelled along with two other diplomats based in the Syrian embassy in the UK.

“We have been seeking in recent days to increase the pressure on the Assad regime and to get the message across to them that the world, the international community, is appalled by the violence that has continued, by the behaviour of the regime and by the murder of so many innocent people, including in the terrible massacre at El Houla which was reported at the end of last week,” Hague said.

“We want to get the message across to them that they have to choose, that time will run out for the Annan plan and that they have to make the choice about what they are going to do.”

Hague added that the international community is seeking other means of building the pressure on Bashar Assad’s government to implement the ceasefire plan brokered by UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Annan is set to meet with Syria’s President Assad in Damascus today.

The UN Security Council has condemned the massacre. In a joint statement, Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan said on Friday: “This appalling and brutal crime involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is a flagrant violation of international law and of the commitments of the Syrian Government to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centres and violence in all its forms.”

“Those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account.”

Troops kill at least 90 in Syria, say activists >

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