On Monday, Jordan's King Abdullah II publicly called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, becoming the first Arab leader to call for his neighbor's resignation.
Abdullah told the British Broadcasting Corporation in an exclusive BBC World News television interview that if he were in Assad's situation, he would “make sure whoever comes after me has the ability to change the status quo.”
He urged Assad to fulfill his agreement with the Arab League and enter into a dialogue with opposition elements to ensure an orderly transition.
In the interview, Abdullah went much farther than any other Arab leader to date.
“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... That's the only way I would see it work and I don't think people are asking that question,” he commented.
Earlier in the day, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem called Saturday's decision by the Arab League to suspend the country's membership “an extremely dangerous step.” Mobs of angry loyalists rioted violently Saturday night in response to the news, storming the embassies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in Damascus and a number of other missions and consulates in Latakia and elsewhere around the country.
Nevertheless, the Arab League has summoned Syrian opposition leaders to meet in the next several days to form “a unified view of the coming transitional period.”
The League has also set another meeting of its foreign ministers for Wednesday.
The European Union has also increased its own sanctions against Syria, adding 18 Syrian officials to a blacklist of people whose assets have been frozen and who are listed on a travel ban.
The United Nations has estimated that at least 3,500 civilians have died in the eight months since the nationwide anti-government protests began. Human rights and activist organizations have placed the death toll much higher, at more than 4,200 at last count.
The Hashemite regime has seen unrest on a much smaller scale than other Arab regimes since the Arab Spring erupted earlier this year, but has shown greater restraint than other embattled governments. Abdullah began pressing his government to pursue broad economic and political reforms well before the unrest now gripping the region began.