Annan says Syria ‘at a tipping point’ after massacre | LA Times
By Patrick J. McDonnell
U.S. and world leaders dramatically increased pressure on Syria in the wake of a civilian massacre, with special envoy Kofi Annan declaring the country to be at a tipping point and urging its president to implement a peace plan that could fatally weaken his grip on power.
Annan spoke Tuesday in the Syrian capital as a group of nations — including the United States, Britain, France and Australia — expelled Syrian diplomats in an orchestrated response to last week’s massacre of more than 100 people, the majority of them women and children, in the central Syrian township of Houla.
Most of the victims were initially thought to have died in government shelling, but the U.N. human rights office said Tuesday that evidence indicated most were summarily executed in a house-to-house rampage Friday. The U.N. said residents who were interviewed blamed shabiha, pro-government militiamen who rights groups say have acted as regime enforcers and executioners.
The Syrian government has denied responsibility for the massacre, whose graphic images of bloodied and mangled corpses have prompted global revulsion. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday condemned what she called an “absolutely indefensible, vile, despicable massacre.”
Nuland said the United States would look for ways to “tighten the noose” around the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Germany and Britain said they were expelling the Syrian ambassadors to their countries, and the U.S. said it was giving the charge d’affaires, the top Syrian diplomat in Washington, 72 hours to leave.