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Assad has missed chance for reform: Obama

Syrians waving their national flag as they protest outside the US embassy in Damascus. - AFP (File Photo)

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad has missed a series of chances for reform, as he also denounced an attack on the US embassy in Damascus.

Assad, Obama told CBS television has “missed opportunity after opportunity to present a genuine reform agenda.

“More broadly, I think that increasingly you're seeing President Assad lose legitimacy in the eyes of his people,” Obama said.

Washington had made it clear “that what we've seen on the part of the Syrian regime has been an unacceptable degree of brutality directed at its people,” the US president added.

He also scolded Syria for allowing pro-regime activists to attack the US embassy, saying that Washington had “sent a clear message that nobody can be messing with our embassy and that we will take whatever actions necessary in order to protect our embassy.”

Syria's ties with the United States and France were in a downward spiral four months into a revolt against President Bashar Al-Assad, after pro-regime crowds attacked the embassies of the United States and France.

Earlier the White House had more firm words about the embassy incident.

“Letting thugs storm the embassy is not acceptable,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

“We've made that clear to the Syrian government. It's their responsibility - as it is the responsibility of host nations around the globe - to provide security for and maintain security for foreign embassies.”

However, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said later “things are improving on that front; we do think there is better attention now to our security.”

US ambassador in Damascus Robert Ford met Tuesday with the deputy minister for foreign affairs and there was “a much more collaborative tone” in their talks, she said.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday issued its condemnation “in the strongest possible terms” as well, noting that the attacks “resulted in damage to embassy premises and injuries to diplomatic personnel.”

The members of the Security Council call on the fundamental principles of the inviolability of diplomatic missions, and the obligations on host governments to take all appropriate steps to protect embassy premises,” it said in a statement.

Paris has called on the UN Security Council to take a stand on the crisis in Syria, after three French staff were injured in the attack on its embassy.

“France and other European countries have submitted a proposed resolution to the UN Security Council, which has been blocked by Russia and China,” French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said in a radio interview.

But Nuland distanced herself from the French call, saying “with regard with the embassy operations, we continue to work bilaterally with the Syrians.”

Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon also condemned the attacks, his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

“He recalls that the security of diplomatic missions is the responsibility of the host countries and he reminds the Syrian government of its obligations in this regard.”


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