Britain condemns Syria violence, hints at UN-EU action

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Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague called for an end Tuesday to the "violent repression" of protests in Syria, and said London was working with the UN and EU to send a "strong signal" to Damascus.

"I condemn utterly any violence and killings perpetrated by the Syrian security forces against civilians who are expressing their views in peaceful protests," Hague said in a statement.

"This violent repression must stop. President (Bashar) Assad should order his authorities to show restraint and to respond to the legitimate demands of his people with immediate and genuine reform, not with brutal repression."

He added: "The United Kingdom is working intensively with our international partners to persuade the Syrian authorities to stop the violence and respect basic and universal human rights to freedoms of expression and assembly.

"This includes working with our partners on the United Nations Security Council to send a strong signal to the Syrian authorities that the eyes of the international community are on Syria, and with our partners in the EU and the region on possible further measures."

Diplomats said Monday that Britain, France, Germany and Portugal are seeking a UN Security Council condemnation of the killing of hundreds of demonstrators in Syria and a call for an independent investigation.

Hague called on Assad to adhere to a decree he signed last week to abolish nearly five decades of emergency rule in a bid to pacify protesters demanding political reform and the fall of the regime.

"Words are not enough: the emergency law needs to be lifted in practice and the legitimate aspirations of the people met," he said.

"I call on the Syrian authorities to respect the right of their people to express their views. Protesters must be protected, not attacked. There needs to be accountability for the deaths that have occurred."

Syria's southern town of Daraa came under sustained gunfire from troops Tuesday as a military assault on the epicentre of pro-democracy protests raged into a second day, a rights activist said.

Hague added: "The only path to stability is through serious reforms, genuinely and speedily implemented, to address the legitimate demands of peaceful protesters.

"The present actions of the security forces in Syria do not enhance security, they undermine it."

© 2011 AFP

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