US, UK take diplomatic steps over Syria violence

State Dep't announces its embassy has suspended all operations, Hague recalls ambassador to Syria.

Syrian demonstrate against Assad 390 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian demonstrate against Assad 390 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United States announced on Monday it was closing its embassy in Syria, and Britain that is was recalling its ambassador, due to the worsening security situation, further isolating Damascus over its bloody crackdown on anti-government protests.
The State Department, which warned late last month that it would close the embassy unless security concerns were addressed, said it had suspended embassy operations and withdrawn all embassy personnel including Ambassador Robert Ford.
"We, along with several other diplomatic missions, conveyed our security concerns to the Syrian government but the regime failed to respond adequately," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
Nuland said that Ford would retain his position as the US ambassador to Syria and would work together with his team from Washington.
"Together with other senior US officials, Ambassador Ford will maintain contacts with the Syrian opposition and continue our efforts to support the peaceful political transition which the Syrian people have so bravely sought," Nuland said.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague also announced that Britain is recalling its ambassador to Syria for consultations as a diplomatic protest against Assad's crackdown on protesters.
The Syrian ambassador in London was also summoned to the Foreign Office to hear a British protest over the violence in Syria, Hague told parliament.
The moves come after Russia and China vetoed on Saturday a UN resolution that backed an Arab plan calling on Assad to quit, a move Hague called a grave error of judgment on Moscow and Beijing's part.
"I have today recalled to London our ambassador in Damascus for consultations," Hague said.
He said Britain and other nations would consider a resolution at the UN General Assembly, in the absence of a UN Security Council resolution on Syria.
Britain would increase pressure on Syria through the European Union, he said. "We have already agreed 11 rounds of EU snactions and will hope to agree further measures by the (EU) Foreign Affairs Council on Feb. 27," he said.
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