US ambassador leaves Syria after ‘credible threats’ to safety


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has temporarily
removed its ambassador to Syria, who has drawn worldwide attention to
the regime’s harsh domestic crackdown, citing “credible threats against
his personal safety.”

Ambassador Robert S. Ford
departed over the weekend, U.S. officials said Monday, adding that he
would not return to Damascus until the security situation improves.

a veteran U.S. diplomat in the Middle East, has traveled through Syria
this year to meet with opposition figures who are demonstrating against
the government of President Bashar Assad. His travels have encouraged
domestic opponents, but they have also stirred a violent reaction that
the administration believes is encouraged by the regime.

this month, an angry group of Syrians trapped Ford for several hours in
a building where he was meeting with a Syrian opposition figure. The
demonstrators attacked a group of embassy vehicles with crowbars and

Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, accused Assad’s regime of conducting an “incitement campaign” against Ford.

officials speculated that the Syrians may hope that Ford’s departure
will help reduce the turnout at anti-government demonstrations.

said the timing of Ford’s return “will depend on our assessment of
Syrian regime-led incitement and the security situation on the ground.”

said Ford’s presence “is a benefit to our mission in Syria, as he has
worked diligently to deliver our message and be our eyes on the ground.
This decision was based solely on the need to ensure his safety, a
matter we take extremely seriously.”


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