US may shut down embassy in Syria
Damascus, October 29, 2008
The US embassy in Damascus may close to the public, a US embassy spokesman said on Wednesday, ahead of demonstrations planned in the Syrian capital to protest against a US military raid in eastern Syria.
"The American community in Syria should be aware that unforeseen events or circumstances may occur that could cause the US Embassy in Damascus to close to the public for an unspecified period of time," the spokesman said.
In a phone call to Reuters, the spokesman read part of an embassy message initially released on Monday after the US military raid on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq.
A demonstration is planned in Damascus on Thursday by groups describing themselves as independent to protest against Sunday's raid which Syria says killed eight civilians.
A US official has said a smuggler of foreign fighters into Iraq was believed to have been killed in the attack.
The embassy spokesman declined to comment on whether the number or status of US diplomats in Syria could change.
Washington recalled its ambassador to Syria following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri in February 2005.
Thousands of protesters attacked the US embassy in Damascus in 1998 during a demonstration against US-led military strikes on Iraq. They pelted the embassy with stones and ripped down and burned the US flag.
Some consular activities were suspended after that protest. Outraged at Sunday's raid, Syria decided on Tuesday to close an American school and an American cultural centre in Damascus.
Syria also has called on the UN Security Council to take action to prevent a repeat of the attack in which military helicopters flew over the border and attacked a farm just inside Syrian territory.-Reuters