MECCA - Saudi authorities quickly dispersed a protest by hundreds of Syrian pilgrims calling for the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad and denouncing what they said was international failure to stop bloodshed in Syria, a Reuters witness said.

Protesters held up rebel flags and marched toward the Jamarat Bridge in Mina, east of the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, where more than 3 million Muslim pilgrims congregated for the annual haj.

No one was hurt when two police vehicles drove slowly in the direction of the protesters with the sirens on as the officers asked the crowd through loudspeakers to leave the area. The protesters swiftly dispersed and merged with thousands of other pilgrims in the area, the witness said.

Saudi officials made it clear in recent days that they want a politics-free pilgrimage and urged pilgrims to focus on performing the rituals.

Saudi Arabia has led Arab efforts to isolate President Bashar Assad's government and has supported the rebels with money and logistics.

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