The United States, joining several Western nations, is expelling the top Syrian diplomat after a massacre carried out by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces on Friday left more than 100 Syrians dead, including many children.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday that Washington has informed Syrian charge d'affaires Zuheir Jabbour he has 72 hours to leave the country. The U.S., according to Nuland, took this action in coordination with other countries including Australia, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Germany. "We encourage all countries to condemn the actions of the Asad regime through similar action," Nuland said in a statement.
Nuland called the Houla violence a "vicious assault" involving weapons like tanks and artillery, which only the regime possesses, and cited reports that many families were executed in their homes by Assad's forces. The United Nations has said that 49 children and 34 women were among the 108 killed.
"We hold the Syrian government responsible for this slaughter of innocent lives," Nuland said. She called the massacre "the most unambiguous indictment to date of the Syrian government's flagrant violations" of U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding the Syrian government cease violence in all forms, including the use of heavy weapons in population centers.
The United Nations' special envoy to the Syrian crisis, Kofi Annan, will brief the Security Council on Wednesday.
CORRECTED: An earlier version of this had the incorrect day the State Department issued statement. It was issued on Tuesday.