Sarkozy demands Assad step down after 'disgusting' massacres
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy demanded Tuesday that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad step down, accusing him of overseeing sickening "massacres" against his own people.
Sarkozy told an audience of French military personnel that the Syrian people should be allowed "to freely choose their own destiny" after facing what he denounced as brutal persecution that inspires "disgust and revulsion".
UN humanitarian officials estimate that at least 5,000 Syrians have been killed in the nine months since a popular uprising erupted against Assad's regime, most of them killed by security forces.
Arab League observers arrived in Damascus on December 26 as part of a bid to negotiate an end to the violence and support political dialogue, but killings continue.
Sarkozy demanded the regime give the observers space to work, and called on the international community to "face up to its responsibilities" by imposing the "toughest sanctions" to force Damascus to grant humanitarian access.
Earlier, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe had warned that France was sceptical that the Arab observer mission would be able to resolve the crisis.
After weeks of stalling, Syria agreed to allow observers as part of an Arab plan calling for the withdrawal of troops from cities and residential areas, a halt to violence against civilians and the release of detainees.
But despite the presence of the monitors, violence continued on the ground, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying another 11 people were killed in various parts of the country on Monday.
© 2012 AFP