French envoy targeted with eggs, stones in Damascus

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France's envoy to Damascus was attacked on Saturday by a crowd throwing stones and eggs at him after he met with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignace IV in the Syrian capital, he said.

Eric Chevallier had met with Ignace in the Christian quarter of Damascus's old city when young people and women began changing slogans in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and threw eggs and stones at the French delegation when the ambassador was going to his car.

"The Shabiha (a pro-regime militia), some of whom had metal bars in their hands, and women threw eggs and stones in my direction and in the direction of my team, and looked threateningly at us while we were returning to our two cars," Chevallier told AFP.

On Thursday, the French envoy visited four schools in Damascus and its surrounding suburbs to express his "deep concern" following reports that protests at those schools were repressed.

On Monday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe accused the Syrian regime of "crimes against humanity" and criticised the UN Security Council for failing to take a strong stand on the unrest.

On September 13, Chevallier and his US counterpart, Robert Ford, travelled to the Damascus district of Daraya to attend a condolence ceremony for slain Syrian activist Ghiyath Matar, who reportedly died under torture.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva has said the death toll from the crackdown on dissent in Syria since March 15 has risen to more than 2,700.

Damascus does not accept that popular opposition to the authorities exists, instead blaming "armed gangs" and "terrorists" for trying to sow chaos.

© 2011 AFP

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