Five EU countries summon Syrian ambassadors: France

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Five EU countries are summoning Syria's ambassadors over its violent crackdown on protestors, France said Wednesday, saying it had been joined in the move by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Foreign Minister Alain Juppe's chief of staff met with Syrian ambassador Lamia Shakkur on Tuesday "as part of a coordinated move with Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy".

The chief of staff, Herve Ladsous, "reiterated to her our firm condemnation of the escalating repression against the population by the Syrian authorities, marked recently by the entry of tanks into Daraa," the epicentre of pro-democracy protests in southern Syria.

Ladsous reiterated French President Nicolas Sarkozy's position that "the violence which has been used against peaceful demonstrators, and which has caused hundreds of deaths, is unacceptable."

France urged Syria to respect human rights including the right to peaceful protest and to free political prisoners, Valero said.

"We reminded Madame Shakkur of the need for the Syrian authorities to respond to the aspirations of their people for reform, and not by resorting to the armed forces."

Sarkozy on Tuesday condemned the situation in Syria, where troops are waging an assault against pro-democracy protests.

Rights activists say at least 400 people have been killed since the crackdown started last month and accuse Syrian security forces of shooting protestors dead.

"You cannot send in tanks and the army to put down protests. This brutality is unacceptable," Sarkozy said in Rome on Tuesday.

France's foreign ministry said Tuesday that France was urging the United Nations and the European Union to take "strong measures" against Syria to halt the violence.

Italy's foreign ministry will also summon Syria's ambassador over the crackdown, "as part of a move coordinated with allied countries", a ministry spokesman told AFP Wednesday.

"The Syrian ambassador will be summoned today," he said.

Germany has already said it is in favour of European Union sanctions against Syria.

The UN Human Rights Council is set to hold a special session on Syria on Friday amid alarm over the Syrian military's assault on protests.

© 2011 AFP

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