Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stepped up his rhetoric against Syrian President Bashar Assad on Friday, saying those in Syria who inflict repression on the people will not survive.
Erdogan, who is visiting Libya, told a cheering crowd in Tripoli's Martyrs' Square, formerly Green Square, that by ousting Muammar Gadhafi the Libyan people had set an example to others seeking to throw off oppression.
"You are the ones who showed the whole world that no administration can stand in the way of the might and will of the people," Erdogan said, as people chanted "Turkey, Turkey."
The Turkish prime minister added, "do not forget this: those in Syria who inflict repression on the people will not be able to stand on their feet because oppression and prosperity cannot exist together."
Erdogan was ending a North African tour in Libya, where he hopes to reap political and economic dividends from its new rulers for Turkey's help in their struggle against Gadhafi.
His visit came a day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron were received as heroes in the Libyan capital. French and British air power had helped rebels overrun Tripoli forcing Gadhafi to flee.
Erdogan, who had already received a rapturous welcome in Egypt and Tunisia, was greeted by crowds of people in the same square where Gadhafi delivered some of his fiercest speeches to rally support against the rebellion.
Erdogan attended Friday prayers in the square alongside hundreds of people and the chairman of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
"They hesitated at first to support the revolution, but after he (Erdogan) saw there was support for the revolution from the Libyan masses, he stood by the people," said computer engineer Abdulsalaam Mohammed, who waited for an hour to enter the square with his five-year-old son.
"There's no comparison, he is cleaner than any Arab leader,” he added.
Erdogan told the crowd that the age of autocracies and totalitarian regimes was over.
"Now, the power of the people is coming and I congratulate you on your struggle," he said.
Having repeatedly urged Assad to end a crackdown on protesters and launch meaningful reforms, Erdogan has become increasingly critical of the Syrian leader, while stopping short of calling for his departure.
The United States and the EU, along with the governments of Britain, France and Germany have already called for Assad to step down.
At a news conference later on Friday, Erdogan said Turkey's approach to Syria had changed and that Ankara would soon announce its "final" decision on Syria by the UN General Assembly meeting in New York next week.
"Our approach now to Bashar (Assad) is not the same as the approach we had one to two months ago," Erdogan said.
"After all these events he will have to face the consequences. At the latest, we will be in a position to announce our final decision on this after the U.N. General Assembly meeting,” he added.
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