Washington: Washington summoned the Syrian
ambassador for talks this week after reports that embassy
staff had filmed US protests against the crackdown in Syria,
the State Department said.
Ambassador Imad Mustapha was called in to meet with top
State Department officials "to express a number of our
concerns with the reported actions of certain Syrian embassy
staff in the United States," the agency said.
"We received reports that Syrian mission personnel under
Ambassador Mustapha`s authority have been conducting video and
photographic surveillance of people participating in peaceful
demonstrations in the United States."
Mustapha met with Assistant Secretary of State for
Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell on Wednesday, according to a
State Department statement.
The move comes amid escalating tensions between Damascus
and Washington over the Syrian government`s crackdown on
months of opposition protests seeking to oust President Bashar
The State Department said it was investigating reports
the Syrian government "has sought retribution against Syrian
family members for the actions of their relatives in the
United States exercising their lawful rights in this country."
"The United States government takes very seriously
reports of any foreign government actions attempting to
intimidate individuals in the United States who are exercising
their lawful right to freedom of speech as protected by the US
Constitution," it added.
Earlier, the State Department said it was dismayed by
criticism from Syria over a visit by the US ambassador to
Hama, slamming as "absolute rubbish" the charge that his
presence in the restive city was a provocation.
Ambassador Robert Ford left Hama at midday Friday after
meeting several demonstrators and returned to Damascus, said
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, adding the
Syrian authorities had been informed in advance of the visit.
"Frankly we`re a little bit dismayed" at the Syrian
reaction, Nuland said in Washington, adding the idea that
Ford`s trip to the flashpoint city was a surprise for the
Syrian government "doesn`t make sense."
A senior US official speaking on condition of anonymity
Thursday said Ford had ventured to the city some 130 miles
(210 kilometres) north of the capital "to make contact" with
Nuland acknowledged that Ford was there in part to
witness the mass demonstrations, which drew hundreds of
thousands of anti-regime protesters into the streets after
Damascus swiftly denounced the move as an incitement to
violence and a meddling in Syria`s internal affairs.