Ehud Barak - Nir Keidar - May 2011.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Photo by Nir Keidar
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday that Syria's embattled leader Bashar Assad has "lost his legitimacy" since the Syrian regime's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters began.

"Even if he remains in the government for another half year…he would be very weakened," Barak told journalists at a press conference during his trip to China.

Earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on Assad to step down, saying that it was clear to "anyone who has seen the oppression in Syria" that Assad must resign.

Speaking at press conference following a meeting with his German counterpart, the foreign minister encouraged the European Union to remove ambassadors from Damascus in protests of the human rights violations occurring in Syria, where the government has been violently cracking down on pro-democracy protesters.

"I expect to see concrete steps taken against this regime," Lieberman said. "The European Union needs to remove ambassadors from Damascus."

"It will be a very bad message if this regime survives and continues to suppress the uprising," Lieberman said.

He said that there is no place for a military intervention in Syria. The international community has enough leverage to "put pressure on Assad to leave his position," Lieberman said, adding that this leverage should be used.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also appealed to Assad on Tuesday to put an end to the country's violent crackdown on opponents of his regime, Turkey's semi-official Anatolia Agency reported.

Erdogan also urged Assad to implement reforms immediately during a telephone call Assad made to congratulate him on his victory in Turkey's election on Sunday.

Meanwhile in Syria on Tuesday residents said that troops using tanks and helicopters pushed towards a northern town after arresting hundreds of people in villages near Jisr al-Shughour.

More than 8,500 Syrians have sought shelter across the border in Turkey to escape Assad's latest military drive to crush protests demanding political change in a country ruled by the Assad dynasty for the last 41 years.