US summons Syria envoy over embassy riots

11th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The United States summoned Syria's charge d'affaires on Monday, accusing Damascus of failing to meet its international obligations after angry mobs besieged the US and French embassies.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland described those storming the US embassy -- for the second time in three days -- as "thugs" and said they had been "chased off" by US Marines.

"The charge will be called here. (Syria) has not lived up to its international obligations," Nuland said, explaining that the Syrian ambassador was on vacation or he would have been summoned.

Tensions have been escalating for months between Damascus and Washington over the Syrian government's fierce response to pro-democracy protests that erupted in mid-March.

US officials accuse President Bashar al-Assad's regime of orchestrating the embassy protests for propaganda purposes and to punish the French and American ambassadors for visiting the flashpoint city of Hama last week.

US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford complained to the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Sunday about the lack of protection at the embassy after the first egg- and food-throwing protests kicked off on Friday.

The foreign ministry in Paris said three French staff were wounded in Monday's embassy attack. As Syrian security forces looked on, Assad supporters smashed their way into the compound with a battering ram, broke windows and destroyed the ambassador's car, according to a spokesman in Paris.

A US official said "no staff were injured" at the American mission.

Human rights groups say that Assad's security forces have killed more than 1,300 civilians and made at least 12,000 arrests since protests against Assad's regime erupted in March.

© 2011 AFP

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