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U.S. Preparing to Shut Down Embassy in Syria

RIA Novosti

04:00 21/01/2012

WASHINGTON, January 21 (RIA Novosti) - The United States warned on Saturday it may soon close its embassy in Syria over the worsening security situation there.

"While no decision has been made, we have serious concerns about the deteriorating security situation in Damascus,” the Department of State said in a statement.

"We have also advised the Syrian government that unless concrete steps are taken in the coming days, we may have no choice but to close the mission,” the statement said.

The announcement came following a Friday report by the Washington Post, in which Obama administration sources were quoted as saying Washington was preparing to shut down its embassy in Damascus and evacuate all U.S. personnel by the end of January.

The embassy will be closed unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad provides enhanced protection that he has so far been unwilling to authorize, the report said.

“Unless we see that, we have no choice,” one of the officials told the newspaper, adding that the deteriorating security situation in Syria “demonstrates further that Assad is losing control of the country and reinforces our point that Assad has lost all legitimacy.”

The move comes amid reports of hundreds of new deaths registered in Syria over the past few weeks, suggesting that the security situation there has deteriorated since the arrival of an Arab monitoring mission in late December.

Last week, United Nations political chief B. Lynn Pascoe said more than 400 people had been killed in Syria in just the two weeks since Arab League observers were deployed in the country on December 27. The figure was compiled by the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the basis of accounts by Syrian and international human rights groups.

“The security situation across Syria, which is deteriorating with each day that Assad clings to power, demonstrates further that Assad is losing control of the country and reinforces our point that Assad has lost all legitimacy,” the official told the newspaper.

According to UN data, more than 5,000 people have died in Assad's crackdown on the nationwide protests. Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda and say more than 2,000 soldiers and police have been killed.

Syria's state news agency SANA said on Sunday Assad has granted a general amnesty for “crimes” committed during the 10-month unrest. The amnesty reportedly covers those who have peacefully demonstrated, those who have carried unlicensed weapons and those who hand over their weapons to authorities before the end of January.

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