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King of Jordan calls on Assad to step down in Syria's 'interest'

Arab states are increasing pressure on the Syrian president over his government’s violent crackdown on political protesters.

King Abdullah II of Jordan addressing the UN in September 2011.
King Abdullah II of Jordan addressing the UN in September 2011.
Image: Jason DeCrow/AP/Press Association Images

KING ABDULLAH of Jordan has called on Syria’s president Bashar Assad to step down as Arab League members continue to step up pressure on Assad over his government’s violent crackdown on political dissent.

Syria had agreed to enact a peace plan brokered by the Arab League at the start of this month and said it would stop using violence against protesters. The UN estimates that 3,500 people have been killed since the protests emerged in mid-March, inspired by popular anti-regime movements in Tunisia and Egypt.

However, within days of making the agreement, human rights organisations reported dozens of deaths as Syrian security forces continued to react violently against the anti-regime protests.

The Arab League held an emergency session at its Cairo headquarters on Saturday to discuss Syria and 18 of the 22 members voted to suspend Syria’s membership. Lebanon, Yemen and Syria voted against the move, while Iraq abstained. That suspension is due to take effect on Wednesday.

Speaking today to the BBC, King Abdullagh said that “if Bashar has the interest of his country, he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life” by engaging in dialogue.

Syria did not respond directly to the monarch’s comments. Earlier today, Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem accused Arab nations of conspiring against his country and he called the vote to suspend Syria’s league membership “shameful and malicious”.

At a meeting of EU foreign minister today, it was agreed that sanctions should be imposed on more Syrians and organisations, though details on those sanctions will not be available for another day or two.

Speaking after the ministers’ meeting today, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said that her team will now begin looking at the legal issues surrounding sanctions. She said sanctions should be implemented without impacting on civilians.

- Additional reporting by the AP

Read: Syria calls for Arab summit on deepening unrest >

Read: Arab League suspends Syria’s membership over crackdown >

Read: Syrian tanks fire on Homs, defy Arab-brokered deal >

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