France and Italy appeal to Syria to end repression

– The leaders of Italy and France made a joint appeal to Syria on Tuesday to end violence against demonstrators, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the situation in the country was “unacceptable.”

“Together we send a strong call to Damascus authorities to stop the violent repression of what are peaceful demonstrations and we ask all sides to act with moderation,” Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said at a joint news conference in Rome.

Syrian security forces have shot dead at least 400 civilians in their campaign to crush month-long pro-democracy protests, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said on Tuesday.

“The situation has become unacceptable,” Sarkozy said, calling the demonstrations peaceful and saying the authorities should not send in the army to open fire on protesters.

Asked whether any international intervention might be possible in Syria, Sarkozy — who took a leading role in pushing for Western military action in Libya — said any action would require a U.N. Security Council resolution.

He also said that “we are not going to intervene everywhere in the world and not all situations are necessarily the same.”

Sarkozy defended Western intervention against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and said he was optimistic about the outcome, but refused to predict whether a solution might take months or even years.

“If we had not intervened in Benghazi, thousands if not tens of thousands of people would have been killed … It was a matter of hours, not days,” he said. “We are optimistic … I do not agree that we are in a stalemate,” he said, ruling out the use of Western troops on the ground.

The two leaders called for tighter EU border controls to control an influx of migrants from North Africa, and said the Schengen treaty, which removes many European Union border controls, should be modified temporarily to allow countries to deal with exceptional circumstances.

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Tim Pearce)

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