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Africa & World
Mar 16 2012 2:13PM
 
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Turkey on Friday "strongly" urged thousands of Turkish nationals to leave Syria and said it was considering withdrawing its ambassador from the violence-wracked country.

"Developments in Syria pose serious security risks for our nationals," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "Therefore it is strongly recommended that Turkish nationals currently in Syria leave and return home."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meanwhile said his government was mulling calling home the Turkish ambassador.

"We are considering all options including the withdrawal of the ambassador from Syria," Erdogan told reporters.

The foreign ministry said it would be halting consular services by its Damascus embassy as of next Thursday, adding that its consulate in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's second largest, would remain open for the time being.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on dissent has claimed more than 8,000 lives since the uprising erupted a year ago, according to UN estimates. Turkey, breaking its long-time alliance with the Damascus regime, called on Assad to quit in November.

Turkey is home to a growing number of refugees fleeing the unrest in the neighbouring country and has also taken in defectors from the Syrian army.

Some 15,000 Syrians have made their way to Turkey, surging since the latest crackdown in rebel strongholds near the Turkish border. Some 270 entered Turkey on Friday, according to official government figures.  -AFP
 

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