Syria accuses US of inciting violence against its forces

ByREUTERS
September 29, 2011 15:38

Syrian Foreign Ministry slams US for interfering in its domestic affairs; Pro-Assad protesters throw stones at US diplomats outside US embassy.




Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem 311. (photo credit:REUTERS/Mike Segar)

AMMAN - Syria accused the United States on Thursday of inciting violence against its security forces and said it would confront what it described as attempts to interfere in its domestic affairs.

"Recent statements from American administration officials...clearly indicate that the United States is involved in encouraging armed groups to practice violence against the Syrian Arab Army," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

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Earlier, supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad threw stones and tomatoes at US ambassador Robert Ford and other US diplomats who were visiting an opposition figure in Damascus, a witness and diplomatic sources said.

"Two embassy cars were damaged. The US delegation is still there and the crowd is surrounding the building," said the witness.

"They are chanting 'Abu Hafez (father of Hafez)'," the witness said, a nickname for Assad.

The witness said the diplomats were visiting Hassan Abdelazim, a centrist politician who has been demanding an end to a crackdown on a six month pro-democracy uprising as a condition for any talks with Assad.

In Washington, State Department officials were not immediately available to comment.

It was the second attack on US diplomats since the pro-democracy uprising erupted in Syria in March. In July, following a visit by Ford to the city of Hama, scene of large demonstrations for political freedoms, Assad supporters attacked the US embassy compound in Damascus.

Ford has infuriated Syria's rulers by cultivating links with the grassroots protest movement.

Ford was cheered by protesters when he went in July to the city of Hama, which was later stormed by tanks. He also visited a town that has witnessed regular protests in the southern province of Deraa, ignoring a new ban on Western diplomats traveling outside Damascus and its outskirts.

The United States, seeking to convince Assad to scale back an alliance with Iran and backing for militant groups, moved to improve relations with Assad when US President Barack Obama took office, sending Ford to Damascus in January to fill a diplomatic vacuum since Washington pulled out its ambassador in 2005.

But ties deteriorated after the uprising broke out and Assad ignored international calls to respond to protester demands that he dismantle the police state and end five decades of autocratic rule.

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