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Swiss to close embassy in Syria

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09:25 CET+01:00

Switzerland on Wednesday said it was closing its embassy in Damascus and urged its nationals to leave Syria "as quickly as possible".

The embassy closure, which follows that by the United States, was announced by Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter and comes against a background of increasing violence in Syria where the regime is seeking to crush a nearly year-long rebellion.

The embassy will be closed "in the coming days," Burkhalter told Swiss Radio.

"We withdrew our ambassador very quickly" after the start of the repression, "but we had kept our embassy open to assist the 150 to 180 Swiss nationals living over there, most of whom have double nationality," the minister added.

The United States closed its embassy in Syria and pulled out all its staff on Monday, while many other countries have recalled their ambassadors for "consultations".

Rights groups say more than 6,000 people have been killed since Syrian forces began cracking down on democracy protests launched 11 months ago.

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