The United States on Thursday strongly condemned an attack by pro-government Syrian protesters on the U.S. ambassador in Damascus, saying it was part of an "ongoing campaign to intimidate U.S. diplomats."
"Intimidation by pro-government mobs is just not civilized behavior. It is an inexcusable assault that reflects the intolerance on the part of the regime and its supporters," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attack and demanded that Syria take steps to protect U.S. diplomats.
"We condemn this unwarranted attack in the strongest possible terms. Ambassador (Robert) Ford and his aides were conducting normal embassy business and this attempt to intimidate our diplomats through violence is wholly unjustified," Clinton said.
"We immediately raised this incident with the Syrian government and we are demanding that they take every possible step to protect our diplomats according to their obligations under international law."
Earlier Thursday, supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad threw stones and tomatoes at U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford and his staff, and besieged the building of an opposition figure in Damascus whom the diplomats were visiting.
A witness in Syria said the diplomats were visiting Hassan Abdelazim, a centrist politician who has been demanding an end to a crackdown on a six month pro-democracy uprising as a condition for any talks with Assad.
Toner said Ford and his staff were safely back at the U.S. embassy, and denied Syrian government accusations that the United States has sought to incite violence against its security forces.
"[Ambassador Ford] is calm, he is resolute, and he is determined to continue to carry out his duties," Toner said.
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