8 Aug 2011

Syria told to end crackdown

4:04 pm on 8 August 2011

Saudi Arabia is withdrawing its ambassador from Syria in protest against the crackdown on Syrian anti-government demonstrators.

In a statement broadcast across the Arab world, King Abdullah said the violence was ''unacceptable''.

Earlier on Sunday, the Arab League issued its first official condemnation of the repression in Syria and called for an immediate end to the fighting.

A BBC correspondent in the Middle East says the move is a major escalation in international pressure on Damascus.

''The kingdom of Saudi Arabia ... demands an end to the death machine and bloodshed and calls for acts of wisdom before it is too late,'' King Abdullah said in a statement broadcast by al-Arabiya television.

''What is happening in Syria is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia. Either it (Syria) chooses wisdom on its own or it will be pulled down into the depths of turmoil and loss.''

The Gulf Co-operation Council also issued its first comments about the unrest on Sunday, condemning ''excessive use of force'' and calling for an ''immediate end to the violence''.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has insisted that his government is enacting reforms. He blames the violence on "armed" gangs" which he says are backed by foreign powers.

''Syria is on the path to reform,'' he was quoted as telling Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour by the state news agency Sana.