Senate approves US ambassador to Syria

AP News
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Posted: Oct 04, 2011 1:40 PM
Senate approves US ambassador to Syria

Top U.S. officials said Tuesday that Senate approval of diplomat Robert Ford to be U.S. ambassador to Syria is a strong rebuke to Bashar Assad's government and a sign of American solidarity with the Syrian people.

Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Ford's presence "in Damascus applies far more pressure than his symbolic withdrawal would have" and he praised him for continuing to visit cities under siege and "speak truth to power."

Ford's nomination won unanimous Senate approval Monday night.

He had been in Syria since January after being appointed to the post temporarily when the Senate was out of session. Last week, Ford and several colleagues from the embassy were pelted with tomatoes and eggs as they visited an opposition figure. U.S. officials said the assault was part of a campaign to intimidate diplomats looking into Assad's repression of pro-reform demonstrators.

Kerry, D-Mass., said Ford has been steadfast "despite even being physically attacked and assaulted by the regime's goons."

At the State Department, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said she hoped that the Syrian people see Senate approval of Ford "as a very strong signal of United States bipartisan support for the work that he's been doing, the message that the United States has been advocating in support of their democratic aspirations."