Assad's exit in Syria "inevitable": Saudi prince

WASHINGTON Tue Nov 15, 2011 5:53pm EST

Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia, former director general of the Saudi General Intelligence Directorate, speaks on Saudi issues in Washington November 15, 2011. REUTERS/Molly Riley

Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia, former director general of the Saudi General Intelligence Directorate, speaks on Saudi issues in Washington November 15, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Molly Riley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's refusal to halt his government's violence against its own people has made his departure from power inevitable, a senior Saudi prince said on Tuesday.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former chief of Saudi intelligence services, said Assad had made his position clear by failing to live up to commitments made under an Arab League initiative to stop the bloodshed and start political dialogue.

"Inevitably, I think, the lack of response of Mr. Assad to all the efforts made to end the fighting in Syria means that he's taken the view of not accepting these matters," he told a Washington, D.C., audience.

"In that context, there will be growing popular opposition to him, and killing every day. I think it's inevitable that he will have to step down in one form or another."

The nephew of Saudi Arabia's king is a former ambassador to Washington and London and remains an influential public voice of Saudi Arabia's royal family although he has held no official government role since retiring in 2006.

The prince said the Arab League had given Assad a "last chance" to comply with its proposal to resolve the situation and would now be expected to take further steps -- citing Libya as a precedent.

He said that Saudi Arabia and its partners in the Gulf first brought Libya to the Arab League in March "and pushed the Arab League to take a decision to move the issue to the United Nations Security Council and bring about the resolution that allowed for intervention in Libya."

"Whether the Arab League will go that route (on Syria), I really can't say, but it is an option and it has been practiced by the Arab League," he said.

The Arab League on Saturday voted to suspend Syria, but stopped short of calling for Assad's departure or proposing any sort of Libya-style foreign intervention to resolve the crisis.

Arab foreign ministers are due to meet in Morocco on Wednesday to consider the next steps on Syria, where the United Nations estimates that some 3,500 civilians have been killed since anti-government protests began in March.

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