Lead transition or go, Sarkozy tells Syria's Assad
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday joined US President Barack Obama's call for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to lead the protest-hit nation's transition to democracy or step down.
"Could I have said that? Yes," Sarkozy said in an answer to a journalist's question at the end of the G8 summit in the French resort of Deauville.
Sarkozy said that Obama "was right" when he said on May 19: "President Assad now has a choice. He can lead that transition or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests."
Sarkozy's declaration is the first time that France has spoken so explicitly about Assad leaving power. Until now France has simply called for an end to the repression in Syria and for reforms to be implemented.
"We've done everything to bring Syria into the international community. Everything. We talked (to the Syrians), tried to help them, to understand them," he said.
"Unfortunately, I'm sorry to say that Syria's leaders are moving quickly in reverse. Under these conditions, France withdraws its trust and denounces what must be denounced," Sarkozy said.
"President Bashar al-Assad knew perfectly that France would do this once there was this unacceptable democratic regression."
© 2011 AFP