Paris: France`s President has said that only the departure of Bashar Assad would end the violence in Syria, saying his regime had acted in an "intolerable way".
Francois Hollande, who was elected in May, again advocated for pressure and sanctions to force out the Syrian leader, continuing France`s tough line on the country, where an anti-government uprising has raged for more than a year.
"The regime of Bashar Assad has conducted itself in an unacceptable, intolerable way and has committed acts that disqualify it" from power, Hollande said yesterday after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syria`s principal backer and protector.
"There is no possible exit from this situation except with the departure of Bashar Assad," he added.
International pressure is mounting on Syria, including condemnation yesterday from the United Nation`s top human rights body for the massacre last week of more than 100 civilians, apparently at the hands of government troops and pro-regime thugs.
"Sanctions are part of the indispensable and necessary pressure," Hollande added, while recognising that the country is hurtling toward civil war.
In March, the UN put the death toll from the uprising and crackdown at 9,000, but many hundreds more have died since.
Putin ducked a question about sanctions, saying that they were "still not effective”.
He also would not be drawn on whether Assad should go, saying only that a negotiated solution that was acceptable to the Syrian people would be acceptable to Russia.
"We want to reduce the violence to the minimum," he said. "We are not for Bashar Assad or for his adversaries. We want to arrive at a situation where the violence is ended and the possibility of a civil war is completely avoided."
Russia, along with China, has twice shielded Assad`s regime from UN sanctions over his crackdown on protests.
The two were among the few countries that voted against yesterday`s resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, condemning the massacre in the cluster of villages known as Houla.
Moscow has also backed the Syrian government`s conclusion that "extremists" and "militants", words Damascus uses to refer to rebel fighters, were behind the killings.
According to preliminary UN investigations, at least 49 children under the age of 10 were among the dead, with entire families apparently executed in their homes. UN investigators have said there is strong evidence that pro-regime fighters were behind the massacre.
Yesterday`s resolution instructs an expert panel to conduct an "international, transparent, independent and prompt investigation" and echoes calls by UN rights chief Navi Pillay for the UN Security Council to consider referring Syria to the International Criminal Court.