In a sharply worded speech Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to resign, accusing him of “barbarous repression” of his own people. The Syrian regime has been accused of brutally cracking down on protesters seeking more freedom, and the United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed by government forces. Assad, who remains defiant in the face of international pressure to pull back his military, had agreed to remove security forces from the streets of major cities and talk with opposition leaders. But the bloodshed continued, prompting the strong rebuke from Sarkozy. “The massacres being committed by the Syrian regime rightly arouse disgust and revolt in the Arab world, in France, in Europe, and everywhere in the world,” the French president said. The Arab League called for a ceasefire earlier on Tuesday.
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