U.S. Embassador Robert Ford Attacked in Syria

Sep 30, 2011, 11:52 by R.E. Christian

A pro-Syrian government crowd tried to enter a Damascus office building as the U.S. ambassador and a Syrian opposition leader met, the opposition leader said.

Hassan Abdel Azim, leader of the National Democratic Gathering, was meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford when about 100 protesters began demonstrating outside his office building Thursday, The New York Times reported.

The protesters chanted anti-American slogans and trapped Ford inside the building until security forces broke up the crowd, Azim said.

Azim said the protesters also tried to break into the office, but he and others thwarted them by locking all gates leading to the meeting place.

"From the minute he arrived, a group of 100 people ran after the U.S. staff, chanting slogans for the president [Bashar Assad] and others against this visit," said Azim, a moderate politician who said an end to the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters was a condition before a dialogue with Assad could begin.

Ford has been outspoken against the government violence against protesters and has been viewed by the Syrian government as more of an activist than diplomat. In July, after Ford visited the restive city of Hama, pro-Assad supporters attacked the U.S. Embassy compound.

Also Thursday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry accused the United States of sponsoring attacks against Syrian military troops.

"Comments by American officials are striking proof that the United States encourages armed groups to commit violence against the Syrian Arab army," the ministry said in a statement.

Source: UPI