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US Embassy in Damascus May Close After Raid


The U.S. embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus may be closed to the public indefinitely, following a raid in eastern Syria that the United States says targeted and killed a top al-Qaida operative and seven other people planning an attack on Iraq. Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Cairo.

The U.S. Embassy in Damascus is warning Americans in Syria to be alert and says it could close to the public after the raid Sunday near the country's border with Iraq.

A statement on the embassy web site says, "The American community in Syria should be aware that unforeseen events or circumstances may occur that could cause the U.S. Embassy in Damascus to close to the public for an unspecified period of time."

Tuesday, the Syrian government reportedly ordered the U.S. Cultural Center and the American Community School to close, but both were open Wednesday.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Andy Halus says activity at U.S. institutions in Damascus is normal.

"I can tell you that we are in the office. I am in the office, today. We are open. It is a normal work day for us. When I walked by the school, this morning, because I live by there, there were students going into it," he said.

Officials at both the Syrian Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Information declined to comment on the situation.

Spokesman Halus says no definitive action has apparently been taken.

"All of these reports, I believe, are coming out of the stories, yesterday, from the Syrian Arab News Agency that the Council of Ministers has said it will close the American Cultural Center and the American School in Damascus. All I can tell you on that note is very similar to what Deputy Spokesman Robert Woods from the State Department said yesterday, that we have seen the reports, we are aware of the reports," said Halus. "We have not received any official notification from the Syrians about these reports. So, we really cannot speculate on any of our response with the absence of official notification."

The United States has been represented in Syria by a Charge' d'affaires, since Ambassador Margaret Scobie was withdrawn two years ago.

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