West expels envoys over massacre of Syrian children
30 May 2012, 11:09
Beirut - Western
powers expelled Syria's envoys on Tuesday in outrage at a massacre of
108 people, almost half of them children, and peace envoy Kofi Annan
urged President Bashar al-Assad to halt the bloodshed as "a tipping
point" had been reached.
The killings in the town of Houla drew a chorus of condemnation
from around the world, with the United Nations saying entire families
were killed in their homes on Friday, some by army tanks and others
probably by pro-Assad militia.
"Bashar al-Assad is the murderer of his people," French Foreign
Minister Laurent Fabius told Le Monde. "He must relinquish power. The
sooner the better."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman described an "absolutely
indefensible, vile, despicable massacre against innocent children,
women, shot at point blank range by regime thugs."
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, whose monitors are in
Syria, contradicted the Assad's government assertion that the killings
were carried out by terrorist gangs.
"Part of the victims had been killed by artillery shells, now
that points ever so clearly to the responsibility of the government.
Only the government has heavy weapons, has tanks, has howitzers,"
Ladsous told reporters, adding:
"But there are also victims from individual weapons, victims from
knife wounds and that of course is less clear but probably points the
way to the (pro-Assad) shabbihas, the local militia."
The United States, France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy,
Spain, Australia and Bulgaria gave Syria's envoys hours or days to leave
their capitals in a coordinated move meant to isolate Assad further
Some had already expelled ambassadors or downgraded ties and so, like Washington, ordered out less senior charges d'affaires.
Western countries that have called for Assad to step down hope
the Houla killings will tip global opinion, notably that of Syria's main
protector Russia, towards more effective action.
The killings have contributed to doubt about whether a peace plan
backed by Annan, a former U.N. secretary general, has any chance of
success. Some of Assad's opponents say Annan's plan is only making the
situation worse by buying Assad time.