Syria slams Clinton 'provocation'

Clinton said Syrian president "is not indispensable" after Damascus mob attacked US and French embassies.

    Rula Amin reports on Syrians finding refuge in neighbouring Jordan from the government crackdown.

    Syria has denounced a statement by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had lost legitimacy and was "not indispensable".

    "Syria strongly condemns the statements of the American foreign minister ... these remarks are provocative and aim at continuing the internal tension," Syria's state news agency, SANA, said on Tuesday.

    "These statements are another proof of US's flagrant intervention in Syria's internal affairs. The legitimacy of Syria's leadership is not based on the United States or others, it stems from the will of the Syrian people."

    Clinton spoke on Monday after after protesters in Damascus attacked the US and French embassies. The demonstrations came after Robert Ford, the US ambassador, and his French counterpart visited the restive city of Hama, where Assad is facing growing demonstrations against his rule and has allegedly killed or arrested scores of residents.

    The Syrian government called the visits to Hama interference in the country's internal affairs and accused the ambassadors of undermining Syria's stability.

    Ford, the US ambassador to Syria, has of late harshly criticised the Syrian government's crackdown on the popular uprising.

    He attacked the Syrian government on Sunday for allowing rallies by supporters while beating up anti-government demonstrators.

    Marine guards disperse crowd

    Witnesses describing Monday's assault on the embassies said the attackers smashed windows and raised a Syrian flag at the US diplomatic compound. They said that the protesters wrote anti-American graffiti referring to the US ambassador as a "dog" on the walls.

    A US official said the mob breached the wall of the embassy compound before being dispersed by Marine Corps guards.

    No buildings were entered and there were no injuries to embassy personnel, but one of the office buildings was damaged and Syrian security forces were slow to respond, the official said.

    The official further said the Obama administration would formally protest and may seek compensation for damage caused by the attack.

    Following the embassy assault, the residence of US ambassador Ford was attacked by a mob.

    Later, Clinton, the US secretary of state, said the Syrian leader had lost legitimacy.

    "If anyone, including President [Bashar] al-Assad, thinks that the United States is secretly hoping that the regime will emerge from this turmoil to continue its brutality and repression, they are wrong," she said.

    "President Assad is not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power."

    The state department had earlier said it would summon a senior Syrian diplomat to condemn the assault and demand that Syria uphold international treaty obligations to protect foreign diplomatic missions.

    'Diversion' from protests

    Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington DC, said that US authorities had accused Syria of using the embassy attacks "as a diversion from protests against Assad ... and simply will not work".

    At around the same time the US embassy was targeted, security guards at the French embassy in Damacus had to fire into the air and use tear gas to drive back Assad supporters.

    One witness said three protesters were injured when embassy guards beat them with clubs.

    "Syrians demonstrated peacefully in front of the French embassy but they were faced with bullets," Hiam al-Hassan, a witness, said.

    "[Syrian] security forces are supposed to protect or ensure the safety of our personal officers and of our buildings," a spokesperson for the French foreign ministry said.

    Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, capital of neighbouring Lebanon, said that security in Syria was so tight that the protesters would not have been able to get so close to the embassies without approval from the government.

    'We love you'

    The pro-Assad demonstrations in Syria are known as "mnhebak", or "we love you".

    "I have not seen the police assault a 'mnhebak' demonstration yet," Ford recently wrote on the embassy's Facebook page.

    "On July 9, a 'mnhebak' group threw rocks at our embassy, causing some damage. They resorted to violence, unlike the people in Hama, who have stayed peaceful."

    "And how ironic that the Syrian Government lets an anti-US demonstration proceed freely while their security thugs beat down olive branch-carrying peaceful protesters elsewhere," he said.

    "I saw no signs of armed gangs anywhere at any of the civilian street barricades we passed.

    "Hama and the Syrian crisis is not about the US at all. This is a crisis the Syrian people are in the process of solving. It is a crisis about dignity, human rights, and the rule of law."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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