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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 Syrian President 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 Mr. 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.”

Mr. 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, Mr. 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 Mr. Assad’s repression of pro-reform demonstrators.

Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said Mr. Ford has been steadfast “despite even being physically attacked and assaulted by the regime’s goons.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports