Fall of Syrian regime a 'matter of time': US

Fall of Syrian regime a `matter of time`: US 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.