Amid anger over the massacre of more than 100 people in the Syrian town of Houla, several western countries say they are expelling Syrian diplomats.
France was the first European country to act. The Syrian ambassador was told to leave as Paris accused Damascus of threatening regional security.
Several other western countries – Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada and Australia – all said they too were expelling diplomats.
Kofi Annan passed on the international community’s concerns in face-to-face meetings with President Bashar al-Assad and other regime leaders in Damascus.
The UN and Arab League envoy is trying to salvage a six-week-old peace plan that many observers say is now in tatters.
Syria’s neighbour Turkey has also condemned the Houla killings.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said:
“Patience has its limits and I believe that there is also a limit to the patience of the UN Security Council. To carry out this kind of murder in front of the whole world while United Nations observers are carrying out their mission there is simply mocking and defying the world.”
Russia again warned against outside military intervention. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the Syrian National Council of inciting civil war by calling on all opposition forces to continue their struggle. He said what he described as the ‘tragic events’ near Houla were being used as a pretext to derail Kofi Annan’s plan.
The Russians, who supply arms to the Damascus regime and have blocked UN resolutions calling for action, have blamed both sides for last Friday’s massacre.
Syrian leaders insist the massacre was the work of ‘terrorists.’