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U.S. expects ambassador to return to Syria next month

(Xinhua)

08:23, October 27, 2011

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. hoped that its ambassador to Syria can return to the country next month, said the State Department on Wednesday, urging Damascus to protect the safety of American diplomats.

"Well, let me just say that he's bought his Thanksgiving turkey for his embassy staff. And he wants very much to have a Thanksgiving dinner for his folks there," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a regular briefing.

"So that's our expectation, that it'll be, you know, sometime before Thanksgiving," she said. This year's Thanksgiving was on Nov. 24.

The State Department said in a statement Monday that the U.S. government has withdrawn its ambassador to Syria Robert Ford because of "credible threats" against his safety. A second secretary at the U.S. embassy in Syria's capital of Damascus confirmed to Xinhua on Monday that Ford left Syria Saturday for a "two-week vacation."

Nuland said Ford is now in the U.S. "having internal consultations, and "also seeing his family."

She made it clear that the U.S. wants the Syrian government to "stop the incitement, stop the attacks on him in state-sponsored media."

"We do intend for Ambassador Ford to go back, and when he does go back, we expect the Syrian government to do a better job of meeting their Vienna Convention obligations to keep him safe and to keep all of our personnel safe," she added.

Ford paid controversial visits to many restive areas in Syria recently in a show of support to anti-government protestors. Before he left Syria, Ford was hit on Friday with eggs and tomatoes while he was visiting the central Midan neighborhood of Damascus.

Syria has been plagued by unrest since mid-March when protests against President Bashar Assad's government erupted.

More than 3,000 people have been killed in the turmoil, according to figures released by the United Nations.

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