Syria: King Of Jordan Tells President Assad To 'Stand Down'

King Abdullah of Jordan has become the first Arab leader to publically state that Syrian President Bashar al Assad should step down.

In an interview with the BBC, the Jordanian ruler urged the besieged dictator to open talks with the protesters and end the brutal crackdown.

Assad's regime has faced increasing criticism from its Arab neighbours in recent weeks.

On Saturday, the Arab League passed a vote to suspend Syria’s membership, leading to unrest in Damascus in which the embassies of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were attacked.

Both the Saudi and Qatar ambassadors have since left Syria.

“If I were in his shoes I would step down,” said Abdullah, adding that he should ensure his successor should be able to “change the status quo”.

“Bashar could go and someone else could come in, but if it’s the same regime and the same member then we’re back to where we started."

He also said that Jordan would be a part of a "reaching out" to the civilian protesters in Syria.

In Brussels, European foreign ministers have approved the tightening of sanctions against the Assad regime, including the listing of 18 individuals involved in or supporting the regime’s violence against the protesters.

The EU has also moved to prevent Syria withdrawing money from the European Investment Bank.

Speaking after the foreign affairs council meeting, Foreign Secretary William Hague said he welcomed the decision to “apply further pressure on President Assad’s regime, following the strong measures announced by the Arab League this weekend.”

Earlier on Monday, Syria reacted angrily to the Arab League's decision to suspend its membership, calling the move “illegal” and a “dangerous step” for the region.