- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2011

DON’T LEAVE DAMASCUS

The Syrian foreign minister this week warned the U.S. and French ambassadors that they will face severe travel restrictions if they leave Damascus again without government permission.

Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador for war crimes said the killing of unarmed Syrian anti-government demonstrators is a “crime against humanity.”

Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem directed his anger at U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford and French Ambassador Eric Chevallier because the two diplomats left the Syrian capital earlier this month without informing the government and visited the city of Hama, a hotbed of protests against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“We will impose a ban on any diplomatic travel more than [15 miles] outside Damascus if the ambassadors continue to ignore our guidance,” Mr. Moallem said at a lecture at Damascus University.

“I hope we will not be forced to impose the ban,” he added.

Mr. Moallem said the government decided against expelling the ambassadors “because we hope to maintain better relations in the future.”

The Foreign Ministry reacted with fury after Mr. Ford and Mr. Chevallier visited Hama on July 7. It accused the diplomats of inciting violence.

Four days later, pro-government mobs attacked the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus.

In a separate development this week, Stephen Rapp, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said the killings of Syrian protesters constitute “crime against humanity.”

Human rights activists accuse the Syrian army of killing between 1,400 and 1,600 civilians during four months of protests.

“We are watching the situation in Syria very closely,” Mr. Rapp, a former prosecutor for war crimes in Sierra Leone, told the Guardian newspaper in London.

“We see crimes against humanity. … That needs to stop, and there needs to be accountability.”

Mr. Rapp was in the British capital to confer with other Western diplomats on additional measures to take against the Assad regime.

‘GRAPPLING’ WITH UNREST

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