UK, Australia expel Syrian diplomats

London/Melbourne: Toughening their stand on Syria, Britain and Australia today announced expulsion of the country`s diplomats in the wake of the recent massacre of children and women at Houla, describing the killing of 108 people there as "sickening" and "hideous".

While Britain said it was expelling Syrian Charge d`affaires Ghasan Dalla and two other diplomats, who have been given seven days to go back, Australia announced it had asked two Syrian diplomats, including the highest-ranked, to leave the country within 72 hours, amid reports that US, Germany, Spain, France, Canada and Italy were taking similar action.

Their move came as the UN said that most of the 108 people killed in the massacre in Syria`s Houla region, including families and children, were summarily executed. "Most of the victims were shot at close range and the executions were carried out by pro-regime militias," Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, was quoted by the BBC as saying.

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "We are increasing the pressure on the Assad regime and getting the message across that the international community is appalled by the murder of so many innocent people. Time will run out for the (Kofi) Annan (peace) plan and they (the Syrian regime) need to make a choice of what they are going to do."

"So as part of that pressure today we have again called the Syrian charge in London to the Foreign Office. He has been given seven days to leave the country. Other Syrian diplomats, two other diplomats, will be expelled at the same time. Our allies and partners around the world will be taking similar action. Of course we will seek other ways to increase the pressure – we are discussing in the EU a further tightening of sanctions," he said.