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Morocco expels Syria's ambassador

REUTERS - Morocco said on Monday it had asked the Syrian ambassador to leave the North African country and declared him persona non grata, calling for a transition to democracy that would meet the Syrian people’s aspirations for freedom.

The expulsion followed the defection last week of Syria’s ambassador to Iraq and the flight the week before of a prominent general once close to Assad - developments that Western officials said showed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was losing his grip on power as the rebellion against him drags on.

Earlier on Monday, rumours had circulated that the ambassador to Rabat, Nabih Ismail, had also defected to the rebel side. A Syrian embassy official denied this but had no further comment.

Morocco’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately explain the timing or the reason for its decision to expel Ismail, but said in a statement the situation in Syria « cannot remain as it is ».

It added that Morocco wished for « an efficient and resolute action to ensure a political transition towards a democratic setup that guarantees Syria’s unity, stability and regional safety to achieve the brotherly Syrian people’s aspirations for dignity, freedom and development. »

Morocco recalled its own ambassador to Damascus in November 2011 and Monday’s decision was the latest in a series of diplomatic expulsions that has seen Damascus increasingly isolated as anti-Assad rebels gain strength.

In May, the United States, France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, Bulgaria and Switzerland all kicked out Syrian diplomats in response to a massacre of 108 people in the town of Houla in May. Japan followed suit.