US envoy quits Syria for security reasons: Embassy

Ford has come in for heavy criticism by regime supporters in Damascus who have accused him of helping incite violence

Last Updated: Oct 24, 2011, 23:38 PM IST

Damascus: US envoy to Syria Robert Ford, an
open critic of President Bashar al-Assad`s crackdown on
political dissent, has gone on indefinite leave for security
reasons, an embassy official said on Monday.

"Ambassador Robert Ford is on leave indefinitely.
Washington decided to give him the leave out of concerns about
his personal safety," the official said, speaking on
condition of anonymity.

Ford has come in for heavy criticism by regime supporters
in Damascus who have accused him of helping incite violence in
the country.
The ambassador has also angered the regime by visiting
protest hubs outside the capital in a show of solidarity with
pro-democracy demonstrators.

The US State Department said Ford was brought back to
Washington because of "credible threats against his personal
safety in Syria."

"At this point, we can`t say when he will return to
Syria," deputy spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington. "It
will depend on our assessment of Syrian regime-led incitement
and the security situation on the ground."

The spokesman said Washington hoped the Syrian government
would end its "incitement campaign" against the ambassador.

"Ambassador Ford`s presence is a benefit to our mission
in Syria as he has worked diligently to deliver our message
and be our eyes on the ground," Toner said. "This decision was
based solely on the need to ensure his safety, a matter we
take extremely seriously."

The US Senate earlier this month unanimously confirmed
Ford`s appointment as ambassador to Syria, calling it "a tough
message" to Assad and a sign of US "solidarity with the Syrian
people."

PTI