U.S. unleashes rhetorical fury against Syria after embassy attack

16:57, July 13, 2011      

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by Ran Wei

The United States, stung by an attack on its embassy in Syria, is ratcheting up its rhetoric against the Mideast country to bring about a change there, analysts say.

The U.S. embassy and the ambassador's residence in Damascus were raided by stalwarts of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday.

The attacks were apparently triggered by the controversial visits by U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford and French Ambassador Eric Chevallier to the central Syrian city of Hama, which has been gripped by anti-government protests, to embrace the opposition.

"The visit of the U.S. ambassador to Hama showed a change in position," said Marina Ottaway, a Middle East expert with the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama slammed al-Assad on CBS television, saying "he has missed opportunity after opportunity to present a genuine reform agenda."

Obama reiterated al-Assad has lost his legitimacy, adding "we have been working at an international level to make sure we keep the pressure up to see if we can bring some real change in Syria."

On Monday, in a furious response to Syrians' attack on the U.S. embassy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said al-Assad's legitimacy has vanished, and the United States has "absolutely nothing invested in him staying in power." This was some of the toughest U.S. rhetoric yet on the Syrian government.

However, Clinton stopped short of explicitly urging al-Assad to step down, insisting instead there was a "significant difference" between Syria and Libya.

Analysts say the United States has ramped up its pressure on restive Syria over the past months.

After protests first broke out in Syria in March, U.S. actions were limited to condemnation.

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