The United States on Monday formally protested an attack on the US embassy and the American ambassador's residence in Syria and said it will seek compensation for damage caused when a mob of what it described as about 300 "thugs" breached the wall of the embassy compound before being dispersed by US Marine guards.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the attacks, as well as another against the French Embassy in Damascus, and demanded that Syria uphold international treaty obligations to protect foreign diplomatic missions.
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"We demand that they meet their international responsibilities immediately to protect all diplomats and the property of all countries," she told reporters at the State Department. Earlier, the department summoned a senior Syrian diplomat to register the US complaints in person.
Clinton cautioned Assad and his supporters that there was no truth to suggestions by some that the US wanted to see the current regime stay in power for the sake of stability.
"President Assad is not indispensible and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power," she said.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said it appeared that a government-controlled television statement had instigated the violence, and Clinton warned President Bashar Assad's regime that it would not be able to distract the international community from its brutal crackdown on protesters demanding reforms.
"By either allowing or inciting this kind of behavior by these mobs against American and French diplomats and their property, they are clearly trying to deflect attention from their crackdown internally and to move the world's view away from what they are doing," Clinton said. "It just doesn't work."
'Attack absolutely outrageous'
Nuland called the embassy attack "absolutely outrageous." She said the mob had not breached the chancery building but had gotten onto its roof, spray painted graffiti and broken windows and some security cameras. In addition, she said protesters lobbed fruits and vegetables at the compound.
She said that Syrian security forces who are supposed to guard the mission were slow to respond to the attack. There were no injuries reported to embassy personnel, who are all accounted for, officials said.
After the crowd at the embassy was dispersed, the protesters moved to the residence of US Ambassador Robert Ford and attacked it, causing unspecified damage, Nuland said.
Witnesses said the protesters smashed windows at the embassy and raised a Syrian flag on the compound. They also wrote anti-US graffiti referring to the US ambassador as a "dog," the witnesses said. The protests were over visits by the US and French ambassadors last week to the opposition stronghold of Hama in central Syria.
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to the report
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