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Turkish PM calls on ‘coward’ Assad to leave

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday urged Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to step down, branding him a coward and warning that he risked the same fate of dictators who met the bloody deaths.

In his fiercest criticism yet of his one-time ally, Erdogan also ridiculed Assad for pledging to fight to the death against domestic opponents while being unwilling to risk his life to retake the occupied Golan Heights from Israel.

“Quit power before more blood is shed, for the peace of your people, your region and your country,” Erdogan told the Turkish parliament in Ankara.

After weeks of mounting criticism of the Syrian president, it was the first time the Turkish premier had directly called for his removal from power.

He is the second leader of a neighbouring country to do so, after Jordan’s King Abdullah last week called on Assad to go.

“Bashar al-Assad is saying he will fight to the death.

Fighting your own people is not heroism but cowardice,” Erdogan said, referring to a recent interview with Assad published by the Sunday Times in London.

“If you want to see someone who fought and died, take at look at Nazi Germany, take a look at Hitler, take a look at Mussolini and Romania’s Ceausescu,” he said.

Adolf Hitler died in his bunker as Allied forces closed in on Berlin, wartime Italian leader Benito Mussolini was strung up from a lamppost by an angry mob and Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was executed by firing squad on Christmas Day in 1989.

If the Syrian leader had failed to learn lessons from the history, Erdogan invited him to consider the more recent fate of Libya’s late strongman Moammar Gadhafi who was executed by his opponents after being chased from power.

Erdogan also asked Assad why he failed to display the same fighting spirit to win back the Golan Heights, a rocky plateau which Israel captured from Syria during a war in 1967.

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