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EUROPE > France, Germany, others expel Syrian ambassadors

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France says it is expelling the Syrian ambassador to increase pressure on Damascus amid mounting violence by government forces against civilians and opposition members.

President Francois Hollande told reporters today that Ambassador Lamia Shakkour will be notified "today or tomorrow" that she must leave.

Hollande said that in high-level discussions with British Prime Minister David Cameron and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "we decided on a certain number of ... pressure tactics to apply to Syria," including the expulsion.

Hollande also said that Paris will host a meeting in early July of the so-called Friends of Syria seeking a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

Germany said today it would expel the Syrian ambassador in protest at the weekend massacre of at least 108 people in the town of Houla, national agency DPA reported.

DPA said the 52-year-old ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry and told he has 72 hours to leave the country.

Italy has declared the Syrian ambassador and other embassy staff "persona non grata", the foreign ministry said on Tuesday, joining other European countries in expelling Syrian diplomats in a protest against massacres of the civilian population.

Britain expelled the top Syrian diplomat in London and two other envoys today, saying it was part of a coordinated move by countries including the United States in protest at the Houla massacre.

"As part of that pressure today we have again called the Syrian charge d'affaires in London here to the Foreign Office. He has been given seven days to leave the country," Britian's Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

Canada will immediately expel the three remaining Syrian diplomats in Ottawa in response to a massacre in the town of Houla last week, Foreign Minister John Baird said today.

Australia also expelled Syria's top diplomat earlier today.

World leaders have voiced outrage over the deaths of at least 108 people in the central town of Houla on Friday and Saturday, among them 49 children and 34 women, many blown to bits or shot dead at point blank range.

Most of the victims of the massacre were summarily executed, the UN rights body said.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.

May/29/2012

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