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Terrorism & Security

Saudis condemn Syrian violence after bloody first week of Ramadan

Saudi Arabia and several Arab blocs broke their long silence on the uprisings sweeping the Middle East, condemning Syria's brutal crackdown that has killed more than 300 in the past week alone.

By Staff writer / August 8, 2011

In this photo taken during a government organized tour, a road is blocked in the central city of Hama, Syria, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011. In the besieged city of Hama, the government has cut off electricity and communications, a rights group said eight babies died because their incubators lost power.

Bassem Tellawi/AP

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Arab countries, after months of silence on Syria's uprising, have come out against the Assad regime's brutal crackdown on protesters. Though regional autocrats and monarchies were initially hesitant to support a movement looking to overthrow an authoritarian leader, a sharp increase in violence – coming during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – precipitated a round of unusually harsh criticism.

Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Syria on Sunday night, capping a weekend of mounting regional condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Kuwait followed suit on Monday. The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional economic bloc, also criticized the Assad regime during the weekend.

The past week has been the bloodiest yet in Syria's uprising, which began in March. More than 300 died in the past week alone, according to the Associated Press.

“Any sane Arab, Muslim or anyone else knows that this has nothing to do with religion, or ethics or morals," Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said in a statement, calling for an end to the Assad regime's violence. "Spilling the blood of the innocent for any reasons or pretext leads to no path to ... hope.”

Saudi Arabia is largely aligned against Syria, which has close ties with Saudi rival Iran. But as one of the most powerful nations in the Middle East, the kingdom wields significant influence. Saudi Arabia's condemnation is also noteworthy because it has largely stayed quiet in the face of other uprisings, although it sent troops to help put down an uprising in neighboring Bahrain.

According to the BBC, "by Arab diplomatic standards, it was a highly dramatic intervention by the Saudi monarch. It is by far the clearest and toughest regional position Syria has met, and it comes from one of the most influential Arab powers."

The Syrian government has repeatedly blamed the unrest on terrorists and foreign saboteurs. The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) carried a statement expressing "regret" at the Gulf Cooperation Council's criticism of the regime:

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