Britain Says Assad 'Losing Last Shreds of Legitimacy'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is "fast losing the last shreds of his legitimacy," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday as the regime escalated its crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

As Syrian forces raked the revolt-hit Mediterranean port city of Latakia with machine-gun fire that has already killed dozens, Hague said he was "appalled by the ongoing repression of civilians by the Syrian government".

"The regime's violence continues despite widespread condemnation by the international community. The calls for the violence to stop, including from Syria's neighbors, have not been heeded," Hague said in a statement.

Hague said Syrian forces had besieged towns and cities across the country and used anti-aircraft guns against civilians, "a disproportionate and unacceptable response to peaceful demonstrations."

"President Assad has so far failed to call back his troops. As long as the killing and detentions continue, his proposed reform package is irrelevant: there is nothing to discuss," it added.

"The Syrian people are calling for peaceful change; the international community is calling for an immediate end to the violence. Now is the time for President Assad to act in response to these calls.

"He is fast losing the last shreds of his legitimacy. He must stop the violence immediately."

The statement was the strongest yet by Britain against the Syrian leader.

It comes three days after U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Saudi King Abdullah jointly expressed "shared, deep concerns" about the regime's use of violence towards its citizens.

Source: Agence France Presse

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