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Threats prompt U.S. to pull ambassador from Syria

by Jorge Hernandez on October 24, 2011

Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, has been pulled from the Middle Eastern nation following "credible threats" made against his life. Western diplomats told Reuters that Ford left the country over the weekend.

Tensions between Ford and supporters of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad increased after the ambassador showed support with a grassroots group of protesters who oppose the president's rule. The al-Assad family has been in power for a total of 41 years, and uprisings in other Arab nations, including Egypt and most recently Libya, have put added pressure on the dynasty.

Uprisings against al-Assad began in March, and since then Ford has been a visible and vocal proponent of the protesters. He appeared at the funeral of a slain activist, and visited Hama, a city that has been a focal point in the uprisings. He even went so far as to post his opinions about Syria's leadership on his Facebook page, according to The New York Times.

Ford will be replaced by Haynes Mahoney, the embassy's chargé d’affaires. Mahoney said there is no timetable for Ford's return to the nation.

"We're focusing particularly on the incitement in the media, an incitement campaign, I should say, conducted by the Syrian regime, which we hope will stop," Mahoney told The Times in a phone interview. "At this point, we can't really say when he will return. I hope it will be soon. But it will depend on our assessment of the incitement and the security situation."

Four individuals believed to be military defectors were gunned down by Syria security forces in Homs, another restive city in the nation, according to The Associated Press. Homs, which is the third-largest Syrian city, has seen some of the most violence since the uprisings began in spring.  

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