Hillary demands that Syria protect US diplomats

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned an attack on the US ambassador in Damascus.

Washington: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday condemned an attack on the US ambassador in Damascus and demanded that Syria take steps to protect US diplomats.

"We condemn this unwarranted attack in the strongest possible terms. Ambassador (Robert) Ford and his aides were conducting normal embassy business and this attempt to intimidate our diplomats through violence is wholly unjustified," Hillary said.

"We immediately raised this incident with the Syrian government and we are demanding that they take every possible step to protect our diplomats according to their obligations under international law."

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hurled rocks and tomatoes at US ambassador Robert Ford`s convoy as he visited an opposition figure in Damascus on Thursday and Syria accused Washington of inciting violence and meddling in its affairs.

Washington condemned the attack, calling it an attempt to intimidate a diplomat witnessing the "brutality" of the government.

"These kinds of assaults against diplomatic personnel, including our Ambassador, are unwarranted and unjustifiable," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a daily news briefing.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Ford had been in touch with senior department officials. "He is calm. He is resolute. And he is determined to continue to carry out his duties," he said.

Assad`s crackdown on six months of pro-democracy protests has envenomed relations with the United States, which has imposed fresh sanctions and rallied world pressure on Syria.

President Barack Obama took office in 2009 pledging to engage in dialogue with Damascus and named Ford as ambassador.

"Two embassy cars were damaged," said a witness, who asked not to be identified, adding that the demonstrators were chanting "Abu Hafez (father of Hafez)," a nickname for Assad.

The diplomats were visiting Hassan Abdelazim, a centrist politician who has demanded an end to Assad`s crackdown as a condition for any opposition dialogue with the president.

Ford was already inside the building when about 200 Assad supporters attacked the embassy vehicles with large rocks and street signs with concrete bases. Embassy staff inside the vehicles were not harmed. Police later extracted the convoy.

The Syrian government said that once they were alerted to the confrontation, authorities "took all necessary procedures to protect the ambassador and his team and secure their return to their place of work”.

Bureau Report

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