US rejects Syrian charge that envoy incited protests

July 9, 2011 00:56

WASHINGTON - The United States on Friday rejected a charge by Syria that the US ambassador to Damascus had sought to incite protests in the tense city of Hama, saying the American envoy was welcomed with flowers and olive branches by peaceful civilians seeking political change.

US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford arrived in Hama on Thursday and drove back the next day to the city center before tens of thousands of people staged new demonstrations demanding the downfall of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Ford decided not to stay so as "not to become the story himself" and left before the protests got under way, said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland. She said the US embassy had informed Syria's Defense Ministry before Ford's trip and he had passed through Syrian checkpoints along the way.

Ford's trip coincided with a visit to Hama by the French ambassador and Nuland said these had not been coordinated.

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