Tel Aviv: It is "a matter of time" before the
Syrian regime headed by President Bashar al-Assad is ousted
from power by a popular uprising, US Defence Secretary Leon
Panetta said Tuesday.
Speaking in Tel Aviv after meeting his Israeli
counterpart, Panetta said Washington and other foreign
capitals had "made clear Assad should step down."
"While he continues to resist, I think it`s very clear
that it`s a matter of time before that (exit) in fact happens.
When it does, we don`t know," he said.
The Pentagon chief, in a visit to Israel and the
Palestinian territories today, said Assad`s regime had lost
all credibility after a brutal crackdown that has killed at
least 2,700 people, according to the United Nations.
"Any time you kill your own people as indiscriminately as
they have over these last number of months, it`s pretty clear
that they have lost their legitimacy as a government," he said
at a news conference with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak.
Panetta, who served as CIA director until taking over as
defence chief in July, pledged the United States and other
countries would keep up pressure on the regime to make way for
a government more responsive to the needs of its people.
Barak also said the Damascus regime`s days were numbered
and that Assad`s fall from power would represent a "major
blow" to what he called a "radical axis" of militants in the
region supported by Iran.
In Syria, protesters poured onto the streets in a mass
show of support for a powerful opposition grouping that was
launched in Istanbul, activists said today.