SOUTH Africa on Wednesday condemned "brutal attacks" in the Syrian village of Houla in the past week in which more than 100 people were killed.

Ebrahim Ebrahim, deputy minister of international relations and co-operation, said the attacks were repugnant and called for those responsible to be held accountable.

"We find the use of violence in Syria repugnant and appeal to all parties to the conflict to immediately cease the violence in all manner and forms," he said.

On Tuesday, Business Day reported that the Department of International Relations and Co-operation could not see any reason to step up pressure against the Arab state.

Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the department, said on Tuesday the massacre was no reason to change the relationship between South Africa and Syria. "We are complacent in our relationship with Syria and we have condemned the violence that has taken place there."

The department had encouraged "civilised discussion" with the Arab republic, he said, adding that he did not see why the actions of western nations should influence South Africa.

"We have put a statement on the department's website expressing our concern about the amount of people who have died and how the violence concerns us," he said.

The statement was published on April 14 in support of UN joint special envoy Kofi Annan and called for a "balanced resolution" to Syria's problems.

On Wednesday, Mr Ebrahim said South Africa had consistently expressed its concern about the deteriorating political, security, socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Syria.

He also said South Africa supported an "immediate and thorough investigation" of the events around the carnage, with the involvement of the United Nations' mission in Syria.

Mr Ebrahim urged all parties to the conflict to support and ensure the implementation of a peace plan presented by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria.

"The Annan plan offers hope and an opportunity for settlement of the conflict through diplomacy and dialogue that allows for the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people to be responded to," he said.

On Sunday, the UN Security Council unanimously condemned the Syrian government for the attack on the town, situated near Homs. A total of 108 people, including many women and children, were killed in the attacks.

The US, France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, Turkey, the Netherlands and Bulgaria have given Syria's envoys notice to leave their capitals in a move that underlined Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's diplomatic isolation.

With SAPA