France recalls ambassador to Syria

John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) - France has recalled its ambassador from Syria after an escalation of violence there and is working with the Arab League on a new draft United Nations resolution against Damascus, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Wednesday.

"New violence is taking place and that has led to the closure of the missions in Aleppo and Latakia and to the recall of our ambassador to Paris," Juppe told legislators.

Pro-government Syrian crowds have attacked France's honorary consulate in Latakia and diplomatic offices in Aleppo as well as the Turkish, Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates embassies in Damascus.

International pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt the bloodshed is intensifying. His military crackdown has cost more than 3,500 lives since street protests erupted in March, according to the United Nations.

Western countries have tightened sanctions and Monday Jordan's King Abdullah became the first Arab head of state to urge Assad to quit after ensuring a smooth handover.

Arab foreign ministers met in Morocco Wednesday after Syria's suspension from the Arab League took effect earlier in the day. That decision has prompted a new push for a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

Last month, Russia and China blocked a Western-backed Council resolution that would have both condemned Syria for its crackdown on protesters and warned of possible sanctions.

China's position appears to be softening after it urged Damascus this week to cease violence and adopt an Arab League plan to end the impasse. The plan obliges Assad to withdraw tanks and troops from cities and towns and engage in dialogue with the opposition movement.

Juppe said that despite the failure of initial efforts last month to pass U.N. resolution, Paris, which sponsored the original measure, was working with the Arab League on a new one.

"The noose is tightening around this completely autistic regime that continues to carry out bloody repression," Juppe said. "The Syrian people will win the battle and France will do all it can to help them."

Reuters