BEIRUT, Lebanon — King Abdullah of Jordan added his voice on Monday to the growing pressure on the president of Syria to relinquish power, becoming the first Arab leader on Syria’s doorstep to call for a change in government to end the increasingly bloody political uprising there.
The Jordanian monarch’s remarks, made in an interview with the BBC, came as Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, was still smarting from the Arab League’s unexpectedly strong rebuke over the weekend with its decision to suspend Syria’s membership. Syria also faced additional sanctions imposed Monday by the European Union.
“I believe, if I were in his shoes, I would step down,” King Abdullah told the BBC. “If Bashar has the interest of his country, he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life.”
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The United Nations said this month that at least 3,500 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising started in March. The government disputed the death toll and has blamed the unrest on armed groups which it says have killed more than 1,100 soldiers and police officers.