U.S. recalls Syrian ambassador after ‘credible threats’

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — The United States has recalled its ambassador from
Syria because of threats to his safety.

U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford covers his nose from the smell of dead bodies during his visit with other foreign diplomats to a mass grave in Jisr el-Shughou. AP

Officials said the State Department said U.S. ambassador to Syria,
Robert Ford, has returned to Washington. They said Ford received threats by
elements aligned with the regime of President Bashar Assad.

“Ambassador Robert Ford was brought back to Washington as a result of
credible threats against his personal safety in Syria,” State Department
spokesman Mark Toner said.

Officials said Ford left Syria on Oct. 22. They said the ambassador
could stay in Washington for several weeks.

“At this point, we can’t say when he will return to Syria,” Toner said
on Oct. 24. “It will depend on our assessment of Syrian regime-led
incitement and the security situation on the ground.”

Ford left Syria as a leading U.S. senator warned of Western military
operations against Assad. Sen. John McCain told a conference in Jordan that
the West could consider using force to stop the Assad crackdown on the
opposition.

Officials said Ford had come under increasing threat from elements
within the Assad regime. They cited a series of attempted assaults on the
ambassador during his meetings with Syrian opposition figures over the last
month.

Ford arrived in Damascus in January as part of a reconciliation
effort by the administration of President Barack Obama. Within two months,
Ford began to meet organizers of anti-Assad demonstrations throughout Syria.
More than 3,500 people have been killed since March.

“The concern here is that the kinds of falsehoods that are being spread
about ambassador Ford could lead to violence against him, whether it’s by
citizens, whether it’s by thugs of one kind or another,” State Department
spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Syrian ambassador Imad Mustapha was also recalled from Washington.
Officials said the Syrian embassy in Washington has been spying on
opposition activists in the United States and threatening their relatives in
Syria.

“It will be incumbent on the government of Syria to provide for his
security when he returns and to meet its Vienna Convention obligations, just
as we do in protecting ambassador Mustapha here,” Ms. Nuland said.

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