State Dept: US may close Syrian mission

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER JPOST CORRESPONDENT
January 22, 2012 00:51

State Department warns that "concrete steps" must be taken, expresses concern about "deteriorating security situation in Damascus."

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US Embassy in Damascus

US Embassy in Damascus 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – The United States might close its mission in Syria if the government there doesn’t do more to secure American personnel, the State Department warned Friday.

Referring to a “deteriorating security situation” that has included a number of car bombs, a State Department statement noted the “serious concerns” the Obama administration has for embassy staff in Damascus.

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The State Department indicated the Syrian government is considering the request and stressed that, as yet, no final decision has been made.

Also on Friday at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of America’s willingness to enter into talks with Iran to resolve concerns over its suspected nuclear weapons program.

“We are open to negotiations if Iran is serious about addressing the nuclear program without preconditions,” Clinton said in reference to a letter sent this fall to Iranian representatives offering to return to talks over its nuclear program.

“We all are seeking clarity about the meaning behind Iran’s public statements that they are willing to engage, but we have to see a seriousness and sincerity of purpose coming from them.”

She emphasized the US is not looking for a confrontation, speaking at a time when tensions have run high over increased international sanctions and an Iranian assertion that it might close the Strait of Hormuz in response.

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“I want to underscore we do not seek conflict,” she said at a press conference with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

“The country can be reintegrated into the global community, able to share in the benefits when their government definitively turns away from pursuing nuclear weapons.”

But Clinton also had words of warning for Tehran.

“Its pursuit of nuclear weapons and its needless provocations, such as the threats regarding the Strait of Hormuz, place it on a dangerous path,” she said.


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