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Active U.S. envoy to Damascus is 'vital'

Aug. 17, 2011 at 12:05 PM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Having an ambassador on the ground in Syria helps Washington get a better understanding of the situation as it unfolds, the U.S. State Department said.

International patience with the bloodshed in Syria is evaporating though the U.N. Security Council is unable to reach a consensus resolution on the issue. Opponents of a resolution worry it would lead to a protracted situation like the one in Libya.

Regional leaders like Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have called on Damascus to immediately halt the attacks on demonstrators in the country.

Syria, through its official Syrian Arab News Agency, denied it was shelling the port city of Latakia despite a climbing death toll.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said Washington hasn't been able to confirm reports of Syrian naval attacks.

"But that doesn't change the fact that there's plenty of carnage in the city of Latakia being inflicted on innocents by Syrian armor, by Syrian snipers, by Syrian security personnel," she said.

Regional governments have pulled their ambassadors out of Damascus as a sign of growing frustration. Nuland said that keeping Washington's envoy Robert Ford active, however, was "vital"

"From our perspective, it is absolutely essential and has very much helped us to have a better feel for the situation in Syria and to get to know some of the opposition figures," she said.

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