Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah demanded an end to the bloodshed in Syria on Monday and recalled his country's ambassador from Damascus.
It was the sharpest criticism the oil giant -- an absolute monarchy that bans political opposition -- has directed against any Arab state since a wave of protests roiled the Middle East and toppled autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.
The Saudi statement came with all the weight of the king's personal authority, and follows similar statements since Saturday from the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
"What is happening in Syria is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia," he said in a written statement read out on Al Arabiya satellite television.
Events in Syria had "nothing to do with religion, or values, or ethics," the king said.
"Syria should think wisely before it's too late and issue and enact reforms that are not merely promises but actual reforms," the Saudi king said.
"Either it chooses wisdom on its own or it will be pulled down into the depths of turmoil and loss."
"Dozens killed in Deir al-Zor"
A crackdown by Assad against protests has become one of the most violent episodes in the wave of unrest sweeping through the Arab world this year.
On Sunday, activists said Syrian troops with tanks had launched an assault on the city of Deir al-Zor in the east of the country, killing dozens. The past week has seen scores of people killed in a siege of Hama, a city where Assad's father launched a crackdown nearly 30 years ago, killing thousands.
Assad's government says it is fighting against criminals and armed extremists who have provoked violence by attacking its troops. Activists say Assad's forces have attacked peaceful protesters.
"Clinton calls Davutoglu"
Earlier on Sunday, the Arab League, in a rare response to the escalating bloodshed in Syria, called on authorities there to stop acts of violence against civilians.
The other regional heavyweight, Turkey, whose foreign minister is due in Damascus on Tuesday, has been voicing its disapproval for months.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the ongoing violence and security operations in Syria in a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday, the State Department said.
Clinton discussed the U.S. position that Syria must immediately return its military to barracks and release all prisoners of concern and asked Davutoglu to "reinforce these messages" with the Syrian government, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
Saudi Arabia had maintained its silence regarding Syria despite deep antagonism over the contest for regional hegemony with Iran, one of Syria's only allies.
Shortly after the address, Al Arabiya reported Kuwaiti parliamentarians called on members of the GCC -- a bloc of resource-rich monarchies in which Saudi influence is extensive -- to recall ambassadors from Damascus.
The channel provided no further details immediately.
King Abdullah sent Saudi troops in March to help neighbouring monarchy Bahrain put down anti-government protests, and Saudi officials have criticised the decision to put Egypt's ousted leader Hosni Mubarak on trial.
Saudi Arabia has acted as a mediator in neighbouring Yemen, and is hosting its President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who went there for medical treatment after being wounded in a bomb attack when protests against his rule turned into open conflict.
AgenciesLast Mod: 08 Ağustos 2011, 16:41