U.S. boots envoy of Syria after weekend massacre

The Obama administration is expelling the top Syrian diplomat in Washington in response to Friday’s reported massacre of 108 people, including 49 children, in the village of Houla.

U.S. officials told Syrian Charge d’Affaires Zuheir Jabbour on Tuesday morning that he has 72 hours to leave the country

“We hold the Syrian government responsible for this slaughter of innocent lives,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday. “This massacre is the most unambiguous indictment to date of the Syrian government’s flagrant violations of its U.N. Security Council obligations … along with the regime’s ongoing threat to peace and security.”

The decision to kick out the Syrian envoy was part of an international protest. Seven other Western countries — Canada, Australia, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany — also said they would expel Syrian diplomatic officials.

Over the weekend, U.N. observers confirmed the deaths in Houla after an assault involving tanks and artillery — weapons that only the Syrian military possesses. There are also reports that many families were summarily executed in their homes by regime forces, according to the State Department.

“We encourage all countries to condemn the actions of the Assad regime through similar action,” Ms. Nuland said.

President Obama is backing a plan by peace envoy Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general, to end the 14-month-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad, but it’s been six weeks since Mr. Assad and the rebels signed the agreement, and the bloodshed has not slowed.

“This latest attempt to win over Russia, like the failed Annan plan, is but a rationalization for inaction,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. “It is clear that nothing in Syria will change for the better until the balance of power on the ground shifts against Assad.”

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