Syria, Aug. 8: Joining a chorus of global condemnation, three oil-rich Arab countries today recalled their ambassadors to the Syrian capital Damascus in protest againt President Bashar al-Assads brutal crackdown on demonstrations.
It comes as the Syrian military and security forces pressed ahead with their assault on the most restive locales.
The decision by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait came as Assad replaced the defence minister with the armys chief of staff, the Syrian state-run news agency said. There was no immediate explanation for the move to oust the incumbent defence minister, Lt. Gen. Ali Habib, a key figure in the leadership who had served as defence minister since June 2009.
His departure would constitute one of the highest-level shake-ups since the uprising began in mid-March. His replacement was General Dawoud Rajha.
The withdrawal of ambassadors from the three Gulf countries signified growing frustration in the region with the mounting death toll in Syria and underlined the unprecedented isolation of the government of Assad, who inherited power from his father, Hafez, in 2000. In a statement, the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, called on the Syrian President to stop what he called the killing machine and end the bloodshed.
Saudi Arabia, one of the regions most repressive countries, dispatched its own armed forces to help crush an uprising this spring in Bahrain, which itself relentlessly repressed opposition to the Sunni monarchy there. But in a region where leaders have long proved reluctant to criticise each other, the move suggested that Saudi Arabia saw more potential turmoil in Assad staying than in him leaving.
For months, Saudi Arabia, fearful of more unrest in the region, had tried to protect the status quo. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands before its historical responsibility towards her brothers, demanding the stoppage of the killing machine and bloodshed, and the use of reason before it is too late, the king said in a statement that was read on Saudi television.
The Saudi monarchs comments followed similar though less strongly-worded statements since Saturday by the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation regional group that comprises Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE. The Gulf council statement urged Syrian leaders to resort to wisdom and introduce serious and necessary reforms.