Thursday 29 September 2011
The American envoy was trapped in the office for three hours by the angry mob outside.
Ambassador Robert Ford, an outspoken critic of Assad's crackdown on the six-month-old anti-government uprising, was unharmed and eventually escorted out by Syrian security forces, who showed up more than an hour after the attack began. He was meeting with Hassan Abdul-Azim, who heads the outlawed Arab Socialist Democratic Union party.
"Now that security forces are here, I believe his life is not in danger," Abdul-Azim told The Associated Press.
Ford has angered the Syrian regime in past months by visiting a couple of the protest centers outside Damascus in a show of solidarity with the anti-government uprising. The latest incident could further raise tensions between Washington and Damascus, which has accused the United States of helping incite violence in Syria. In August, President Barack Obama demanded Assad resign, saying he had lost his legitimacy as a ruler.
"A crowd of demonstrators tried to assault Ambassador Ford and embassy colleagues today as they went about doing the normal work of any embassy," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington. He said the ambassador went to a meeting with "a well-known Syrian political figure," adding that Ford and his staff were back safe at the US Embassy.
"The mob was violent. It tried, unsuccessfully, to attack embassy personnel while they were inside several embassy vehicles, seriously damaging the vehicles in the process," said Toner. "Syrian security officers finally assisted in securing a path from the ambassador's meeting for him and his aides back to the embassy."
Syria's Foreign Ministry said the US Embassy informed the ministry that Ford was confronted by protesters when he visited Abdul-Azim. The statement added that the ministry immediately contacted security authorities, who "took all measures needed to protect the ambassador and his team and secured their return to their work in accordance with Syria's international commitments."