BEIRUT - Syria denounced on Tuesday a statement by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she said Syrian President Bashar Assad had lost legitimacy and was "not indispensable."

"Syria strongly condemns the statements of the American foreign minister... these remarks are provocative and aim at continuing the internal tension," Syria's state news agency SANA said.

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"These statements are another proof of [the] US's flagrant intervention in Syria's internal affairs. The legitimacy of Syria's leadership is not based on the United States or others, it stems from the will of the Syrian people," it said.

Diplomatic tension increased between the two countries after US Ambassador Robert Ford visited the restive city of Hama, where Assad is facing growing demonstrations against his rule.

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Syria said Ford sought to incite protests. The State Department denied that and said Ford toured Hama to show solidarity with residents facing a security crackdown.

Earlier Tuesday, France condemned Syria and said the United Nations Security Council's failure to speak out against the violent repression of pro-reform protests there was becoming "unbearable."

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said China and Russia were blocking adoption of a UN resolution and that this was not acceptable.

"President (Bashar) Assad has gone way beyond the limit. The UN Security Council's silence on Syria is becoming unbearable," Fillon said in an interview on Europe 1 radio.

The comments came following events on Monday, when crowds loyal to Assad attacked the US and French embassies in Damascus, three days after the French and US ambassadors visited the city of Hama in a show of support for pro-democracy protests.

British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt joined in the condemnation of the attacks in an official statement released Tuesday, saying "Syrian authorities have failed to discharge their responsibility under international law to protect diplomatic missions...The damage done to the US and French missions is clearly intended as a response to the visit to Hama late last week by their Ambassadors in Syria. I reassert the right under international law of all diplomats to freedom of movement."

Following Monday's events, Clinton demanded that the Syrian government fulfill its diplomatic obligation to protect foreign embassies in the country. The State Department said mobs assaulted both the US embassy compound and the US ambassador's residence, but that no staff were injured or ever in any imminent danger.

Clinton, speaking at a Washington press briefing with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, also called on Assad's regime to halt its violence against protesters and begin a process of democratic reform.

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