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Turkey premier urges Syrian president to step down

In his harshest words yet, Recep Tayyip Ergodan reminded Assad of the bloody end of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, as well as past dictators, including Adolf Hitler

  • An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube shows Syrian mourners carrying the coffin of a victim kilImage Credit: AFP
  • Syrians wave national flags as they rally in central Damascus on November 16, 2011 in support of President BasImage Credit: AFP
  • Demonstrators against Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad display a banner during a march after prayers in KafraImage Credit: Reuters
  • Syria's President Bashar Al Assad greets the crowd during his visit to Raqqa city in Eastern Syria, NovembImage Credit: Reuters
Gulf News

Ankara: Turkey's prime minister on Tuesday said for the first time that Syria's president must step down over the country's brutal crackdown on dissent, ratcheting up the pressure on the increasingly isolated Bashar Assad.

In his harshest words yet, Recep Tayyip Ergodan reminded Al Assad of the bloody end of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, as well as past dictators, including Adolf Hitler.

'Just leave'

"For the welfare of your own people and the region, just leave that seat," Erdogan said in a televised speech.

"If you want to see someone who has fought until death against his own people, just look at Nazi Germany, just look at Hitler, at Mussolini, at Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania," he said.

"If you cannot draw any lessons from these, then look at the Libyan leader who was killed just 32 days ago."

Erdogan's warning came the day after Syrian soldiers opened fire on at least two buses carrying Turkish citizens, witnesses and officials said, apparent retaliation for Turkey's criticism of Al Assad, whose military crackdown on an eight-month-old uprising against his rule has killed nearly 4,000 people.

In separate attacks, Syrian security forces killed at least 13 people during raids in central Syria, activists said.

Increasingly critical

The British Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said most of the deaths were in the flashpoint city of Homs, a hotbed of dissent against Syrian President Al Assad's regime.

Erdogan has grown increasingly critical of the Syrian regime, and he said last week that the world must urgently "hear the screams" from Syria and do something to stop the bloodshed.

Turkey has allowed Syrian refugees and military defectors to take refuge on its soil, and Syria's political opposition has used Turkey as a place to meet and organise.

Family dynasty

Assad's deepening isolation and the growing calls for his ouster are a severe blow to a family dynasty that has ruled Syria for four decades - and any change to the leadership could transform some of the most enduring alliances in the Middle East and beyond.

Syria's uprising has grown increasingly violent in recent months. Army defectors who sided with the revolt have grown bolder in recent weeks, fighting back against regime forces and even attacking military bases - raising fears of a civil war.

Saudi asks Syria to please explain 'sinful attack'

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that one of its citizens has been killed in the restive Syrian city of Homs, demanding an explanation from Damascus for what it called a "sinful attack".

In a statement issued by the kingdom's official SPA news agency, a Saudi embassy official in the Syrian capital said Hussain Bin Bandar Bin Khalaf Al Anzi died early Monday while visiting family in Homs.

'Great concern'

"The kingdom is following this sinful attack with great concern," the official said without giving any more details on the circumstances of Anzi's death.

The embassy had contacted Syrian officials over the incident, requesting "details on the circumstances of the crime" and demanding the arrest and punishment of the perpetrators, he said.

It also called on Saudi citizens in Syria to "keep away" from trouble spots in the country, where security forces have been waging a brutal eight-month crackdown on democracy turned anti-regime protests.

On Monday, Syria's state news agency SANA announced the death of "four terrorists" including Khalid Al Rajeh, also known as Bandar, in a military operation in Homs.

Syria's Al Watan newspaper, which is close to the government in Damascus, reported Tuesday that Rajeh is a Saudi national. But it remains unclear if the two named men are in fact the same individual.

Souring ties

The reported killing comes amid souring ties between Saudi Arabia and Syria. Last week, an angry mob loyal to President Bashar Al Assad attacked the Saudi embassy in Damascus after the Arab League suspended Syria over is failure to honour a deal to end the protest crackdown.

Riyadh recalled its ambassador to Damascus on August 8 in protest over the Syrian government's repression.