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Australia expels Syrian diplomats, says other countries will too

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia expelled two Syrian diplomats including the chief of mission on Tuesday and said it expected other countries to take similar action as part of an international response to the massacre of civilians in the Syrian village of Houla.

"In doing this we are more or less moving with our friends around the world. I expect other countries will be doing this overnight Australian time," Carr told reporters.

The U.N. Security Council has condemned the killing of at least 108 people, including dozens of children, in Houla as the international community increases pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to do more to end the violence in his country.

Carr said Australia would expel Syria's charge d'affaires, Jawdat Ali, and one other diplomat, who have been told they must leave the country within 72 hours.

"The Syrian charge has again been advised to convey a clear message to Damascus that Australians are appalled by this massacre and we will pursue a unified international response to hold those responsible to account," he said.

"This massacre of more than 100 men, women and children in Houla was a hideous and brutal crime."

On Monday, China expressed its concern over the violence in Syria, saying it condemned the "cruel killings" in Houla, although it said peace mediator Kofi Annan's efforts remained the most viable way to end the violence.

China and Russia have previously blocked U.N. Security Council attempts to force stronger action against Damascus.

(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Robert Birsel)

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