Turkey's prime minister has described Syria's crackdown
on protesters as "savagery" and accused the country's president of taking the situation "too lightly."
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview on ATV television late Thursday that some images coming out of Syria were "unpalatable" and suggested Turkey could support a UN Security Council decision against Syria.
His comments were carried by the Anatolia news agency Friday.
Erdogan, who has developed a friendship with President Bashar Assad, had previously refrained from openly criticizing the 11-week long crackdown, urging the Syrian leader to enact reforms. The turnaround comes after some 2,500 Syrian refugees streamed into Turkey.
Erdogan said: "They are not acting in a humane manner. This is savagery."
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday the legitimacy of Assad's rule was open to question after the killing of protesters by security forces.
"I would say the slaughter of innocent lives in Syria should be a problem and a concern for everybody," Gates told a seminar in Brussels.
"Whether Assad still has the legitimacy to govern his own country, I think is a question everyone needs to consider," he said.
The top UN human rights official, Navi Pillay, said on Thursday that more than 1,100 people may have been killed and up to 10,000 detained since March in protests against Assad's rule, and urged Syria to halt its "assault on its own people".
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said Assad's legitimacy has "nearly run out".
The international community has escalated its condemnation of Assad as the unrest shows no signs of abating and the death toll grows. The United States, the European Union and Australia have all imposed sanctions on Syria.
Meanwhile, the Syrian army began a military operation in a restive town near the Turkish border, Syrian television said on Friday, after events this week in which state media say over 120 security personnel were killed.
"Our correspondent in Jisr al-Shughour told us now that in response to people's calls, units from the Syrian Arabic Army started its duties in Jisr al-Shughour ... to arrest armed members," the television said.
AP and Reuters contributed to this report