Italy Calls for Urgent U.N. Security Council Meeting on Syria

Italy called for urgent U.N. Security Council talks on Syria and said European ambassadors in Damascus should meet on Monday following a deadly crackdown by the Syrian army on anti-regime protesters.

"We request that the United Nations Security Council hold an urgent meeting and adopt a very firm position," Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in an interview with the public broadcaster RAI.

"We have asked for the ambassadors of European Union member states to meet in Damascus tomorrow," Frattini said, adding: "There has been a horrible act of repression by the regime -- over 100 dead."

"Italy is calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities," he said.

Syrian forces killed nearly 140 people on Sunday including at least 100 when the army stormed the flashpoint protest city of Hama to crush dissent on the eve of Ramadan, activists said.

Activists said it was one of deadliest days in Syria since demonstrators first took to the streets on March 15 demanding democratic reforms before turning their wrath on the regime and calling for its ouster.

Earlier on Sunday, Frattini called the Hama crackdown "the latest horrible act of violent repression against protesters."

As reports of a brutal military crackdown on Hama unfurled on Sunday, Britain, Germany, France and Turkey condemned the violence while U.S. President Barack Obama said he was "appalled" by the bloody crackdown and vowed to step up pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"If President Assad fails to change course, we and our partners in the EU will impose new sanctions," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

A French foreign ministry statement said: "Syrian political, military and security leaders must know, now more than ever, that they will have to answer for their deeds."

"The continuing of the repression and atrocities against civilians is particularly unacceptable on the eve of the month of Ramadan and can only lead to more instability and violence across the country," it added.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was "appalled" by the storming of Hama and urged Assad to rein in his troops.

Source: Agence France Presse

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