Clinton Condemns Attack on US Envoy in Syria

Posted September 29th, 2011 at 5:00 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned a mob attack by pro-government Syrians who attempted to assault U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford and other American diplomats as they arrived for a meeting with a leading opposition figure in the capital, Damascus.

Clinton called Thursday's incident “wholly unjustified” and demanded that Syrian authorities fulfill their international obligations to protect all foreign diplomats and diplomatic property.

Ford was confronted by an angry mob as he prepared to meet Hassan Abdel-Azim, a moderate who has demanded an end to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on dissent as a condition for any opposition dialogue with the government.

A group of about 100 people chanted pro-government slogans as they threw rocks and tomatoes at Ford and his aides. The mob then attempted to follow the U.S. delegation into the meeting, trapping the participants inside for about 90 minutes. The ambassador was not hurt, but several embassy vehicles were badly damaged.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner called the incident part of an “ongoing campaign” to intimidate U.S. diplomats. A White House spokesman called the attack “unwarranted.”

Syrian state media accused Washington Thursday of inciting “armed groups” to carry out attacks against Syrian troops. The report cited Toner's recent comments condemning Syria's crackdown of anti-government protests.

Toner later told reporters the allegations are an attempt by the Syrian government to divert attention from its repression of dissent.

Mr. Assad has repeatedly sent out security forces to violently crush protests by anti-government activists who have been calling for his resignation.

The United Nations says the government crackdown has killed at least 2,700 people since mass protests started in March. Syria says the death toll is lower and includes members of the security forces.

The U.N. Security Council is considering a possible compromise resolution on Syria that avoids immediate sanctions but condemns escalating violence, as clashes between security forces and dissident soldiers continue.