x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

US ambassador pelted with tomatoes by Assad supporters in Syria

'No plans' for the US to recall its ambassador from Syria after an attempted attack by an angry mob.

WASHINGTON // The White House said last night there were no plans for the US to recall its ambassador from Syria after an attempted attack by an angry mob.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the attack on Ambassador Robert Ford's convoy in Damascus yesterday was "unwarranted and unjustifiable".

It came as Mr Ford visited the office of a Syrian opposition figure. He and his staff were not injured.

Mr Carney said Mr Ford puts himself at great personal risk to support the aspirations of the Syrian people.

Supporters of Bashar Al Assad , the Syrian president, stoned Mr Ford's convoy as he arrived for the meeting, then pelted him with eggs and tomatoes and tried to break into the building while he was inside, the opposition activist and a US official said. The American envoy was trapped in the office for three hours by the mob.

Mr Ford, an outspoken critic of Mr Al Assad's crackdown on the anti-government uprising, was unharmed and eventually escorted out by Syrian security forces, who appeared more than an hour after the attack began. He was meeting Hassan Abdul-Azim, who heads the outlawed Arab Socialist Democratic Union party.

Mr Ford has angered the Syrian regime in past months by visiting protest centres outside Damascus in a show of solidarity with the anti-government uprising.

"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.

"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," Mr Toner said. "Syrian security officers finally assisted in securing a path from the ambassador's meeting for him and his aides back to the embassy."

Mr Abdul-Azim said Mr Ford was inside his office when the Assad supporters tried to force their way in, breaking some door locks. Office staff prevented them from rushing in, but the ambassador was trapped inside for about three hours.