Feb 6, 2012 1:20 PM by Paul Kavanaugh

U.S. closes Syrian embassy

BEIRUT (AP) -- The U.S. closed its Syrian embassy Monday and Britain recalled its ambassador to Damascus in a dramatic escalation of Western pressure on President Bashar Assad to give up power, just days after diplomatic efforts at the United Nations to end the crisis collapsed.

The U.S. evacuated all its diplomats from the country as Syrian forces intensified a shelling assault on the restive city of Homs. The offensive began Saturday, the same day Syria's allies in Russia and China vetoed a Western- and Arab-backed resolution aimed at trying to end the brutal crackdown on dissent.

"We have been relentless in sending a message that it is time for Assad to go," President Barack Obama said during an interview with NBC. "This is not going to be a matter of if, it's going to be a matter of when."

Also Monday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told lawmakers that Britain is using multiple channels to express its "abhorrence" at the violent crackdown, and has summoned Syria's ambassador to the Foreign Office to convey that message.

"This is a doomed regime as well as a murdering regime," Hague said. "There is no way it can recover its credibility internationally."

The onslaught on Homs has reinforced opposition fears that Assad will unleash even greater violence to crush dissent, now that protection from China and Russia against any U.N.-sanctioned action appears assured.

Already, more than 5,400 people have been killed since the Arab Spring-inspired uprising that began in March, according to the U.N.

The decision to close the embassy is the most dramatic U.S. move so far after 11 months of a violent crackdown by Assad's regime.



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