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US Considers Closing Embassy in Syria

A Syrian security man stands guard in front of the U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria, July 12 2011. (file photo)

A Syrian security man stands guard in front of the U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria, July 12 2011. (file photo)

The United States is warning that it may close its embassy in the Syrian capital due to the worsening security situation.

The State Department issued a statement Friday saying that no decision has been made yet, but that a request has been made to Damascus to take concrete steps in the coming days to provide additional security measures.

The White House again called on President Bashar al-Assad to halt the 10-month old crackdown on protesters and step down, saying his end is inevitable. Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington that the Syrian president's hold on power is slipping.

In Egypt, Arab League officials said the group is likely to extend the mandate of their monitors in Syria, which expired Thursday. Arab leaders are set to meet Sunday to review a report on the situation by the team's Sudanese chief and to decide whether to keep the team of about 165 observers in Syria for another month.

Syrian opposition leaders called on the Arab League to seek foreign intervention because the observer mission has failed to tame violence in Syria.

Syrian rights groups have criticized the observers' effectiveness, saying the Assad government has deceived the team and escalated deadly attacks on the opposition since the observers began work on December 26.

Protesters came out in several Syrian cities Friday after prayers calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

"We call on the Arab community and the international community to cancel the Arab League's observer mission and to issue a resolution from the United Nations condemning Bashar Assad's regime," said Syrian protester Mohammad Etri.

Activists say security forces loyal to Assad were out in force. Syrian activist Rami Abdul-Rahman told VOA at least 4 people were killed - three civilians and one member of the security forces.

Qatar's ruling emir has called for Arab troops to be deployed in Syria to stop the government crackdown. Syria has rejected the idea.

The United Nations says violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,400 people. Syria says "terrorists" have killed about 2,000 members of the security forces since the unrest began.

On Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy maintained France's non-interference stance on Syria, but said his government would not stand by as the bloodshed continues.

"We don't want to interfere in Syrian affairs. And no one more than myself has tried with sincerity to reach out to Bashar Al-Assad [Syrian leader]. But at some stage, everyone has to face the reality. And France will not remain silent in front of the Syrian scandal," said Sarkozy.

Russia and China repeatedly have refused to vote on a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria, proposed by Western nations. Moscow, a longtime Damascus ally, refuses to place sanctions on Syria and insists the opposition is partly to blame.

<p><span class="article11"><i><span style="font-size: 7pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: "Times New Roman","";">Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.</span></i></span></p>

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.