Jordan’s King Calls on Syrian President to Step Down

Posted November 14th, 2011 at 6:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Jordan's King Abdullah has called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. He is the first Arab leader to do so since the Syrian government started its deadly crackdown on an eight-month-long uprising.

In an interview with the BBC Monday, King Abdullah said that if he were in Mr. Assad's position he would step down and create a way for Syrians to start “a new phase of political life.”

Also Monday, Syria called its suspension from the Arab League a “very dangerous step” incited by the United States.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Saturday's vote was “illegitimate” because the motion to suspend Syria did not receive unanimous approval in the 22-member body. Eighteen nations led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar voted in favor of suspending Damascus, while Syria, Lebanon and Yemen voted against. Iraq abstained.

Moallem expressed confidence that Syria would be protected from wider action against it. He said Russia and China would block any international attempt to move against Damascus.

However, condemnation of Syria continues to grow beyond the Arab world, after supporters of the Syrian government attacked a number of embassies in Damascus and other cities.

The Arab League meets Wednesday, the day Syria's suspension is to take effect, in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, to discuss the situation. Foreign Minister Moallem repeated an invitation to league members to come to Damascus before then. But his offer is likely to be turned down.

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels agreed Monday to extend existing EU sanctions against Syria to 18 more individuals suspected of links to the Syrian government's violent suppression of opposition protests. The 27-nation EU also decided to stop Syria from accessing funds from the European Investment Bank.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated Moscow's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, saying Russia opposes Syria's suspension from the Arab League. China said it is important for Syria to implement the Arab League peace plan as soon as possible.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday Ankara will take a “resolute stance” against any further attacks on its diplomatic missions in Syria. He also said Turkey will stand by the Syrian people in what he called their “rightful struggle” against the Assad government.

The U.N. human rights agency says at least 3,500 people have been killed in Syria in connection with anti-Assad protests since March. Syria blames much of the violence on foreign-backed “terrorists and thugs.”