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France recalls ambassador to Syria over 'worsening repression'

France joined Britain, Spain, Italy and Belgium in recalling its ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier (far right), "for consultations" on Tuesday. A foreign ministry spokesman cited Syria's "worsening repression" in announcing the move.


AFP - France has decided to withdraw its ambassador from Syria, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday, amid the ongoing bloody crackdown on a revolt against Bashar al-Assad's rule.

"Faced with the worsening repression being carried out by the Damascus regime against its own population, French authorities have decided to recall France's ambassador to Syria for consultations," Bernard Valero said.

"We have begun discussions with our partners in Brussels to reinforce sanctions once again," he added, referring to the European Union's economic measures against Assad's government and major supporters.

Paris's decision came after Italy, Britain and the United States also withdrew their envoys. Valero said the French ambassador would be back in Paris "within the next few days".

The Western powers have denounced the decision on Saturday by Russia and China to veto a motion before the UN Security Council to condemn Syria, and Assad's forces have stepped up their assault on the rebel city of Homs.

Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was visiting Syria, and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a new initiative "with those countries who stand by the Syrian people, not the regime."

Valero said France was following Turkey's plan carefully, but so far had little information about it. He called on Lavrov to use Russia's influence to pressure Syria into accepting a regional peace plan.

"We expect Mr Lavrov will use his visit to Damascus to make the regime understand its isolation and to support the Arab League plan, a brave initiative that must be the basis of any solution," he said.

The spokesman noted that on Monday, France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe had met with the leadership of the Syrian opposition in exile and had called regional leaders to discuss the crisis.

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