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Accept reforms or go, Canada tells Syria's Assad

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird speaks in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Canada's top diplomat says Syria's President Bashar Assad has a choice to make - allow real political reform or go.

Foreign Minister John Baird said in a statement issued late Monday that Syrians have endured terrible crimes at the hands of Mr. Assad's regime and they want real change now, not at some undefined later date.

"Canada joins several allies in saying the president has a choice: he can reform or go. The status quo is no longer acceptable," Mr. Baird said.

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Mr. Assad, whose family has ruled the country for 40 years, offered modest potential reforms Monday in a rare public appearance before a crowd of supporters at Damascus University.

But his promises failed to convince thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators who took to the streets shouting "Liar" and demanding regime change.

Mr. Baird said Canada was also "unconvinced by President Assad's speech."

The revolt that erupted in March, inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, has become one of the deadliest uprisings of the Arab Spring.

The opposition estimates more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 detained as Mr. Assad unleashed his military and security forces to crush the protest.

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