The U.S. says its envoy to Syria is visiting the besieged city of Hama to show solidarity with residents protesting against President Bashar Assad's regime.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stressed that Ambassador Robert Ford traveled independently Thursday. He participated in a government-organized excursion to northern Syria last month.
Nuland said Ford "spent the day expressing our deep support for the right of the Syrian people to assemble peacefully and to express themselves."
Ford reached the city after passing checkpoints run by the military and Hama residents. Nuland said he met nervous residents and saw many shops closed. He also visited a hospital treating wounded people.
Nuland said Ford hoped to remain in Hama Friday, with many people worried about a potential crackdown. Government forces ring the city.