Syria's Assad must reform or step aside: Britain

20th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must implement reforms in his country or step aside, as the embattled leader prepared to make a major speech.

Hague, on arrival at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, said he hoped Turkey would use its influence on Damascus to tell the regime that "they are losing legitimacy, that Assad should reform or step aside."

He added that he hoped Turkey "will be very clear and very bold about that" with the Syrian authorities.

The British chief diplomat said that "there are crucial developments in Syria" and that London was awaiting a speech that Assad was to deliver later Monday.

"The United Kingdom looks to him to respond to legitimate grievances, to release prisoners of conscience, to open up access to Internet and freedom of the media," Hague said.

Syria's official SANA news agency announced that Assad would make a speech on Monday "concerning developments in Syria," without elaborating.

It will be the third time Assad has made a major speech since protests demanding greater freedoms and democracy erupted in Syria in mid-March.

© 2011 AFP

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