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Canada pulls most diplomats from Syria

Feb. 1, 2012 at 10:16 AM   |   Comments

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OTTAWA, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Canada has evacuated all but a few of its embassy staff from Syria as that country teeters on civil war, the foreign minister said in Ottawa.

In a statement, Foreign Minister John Baird said the embassy in Damascus had closed its visa and immigration operations and the embassy was being manned by a skeleton staff, the Globe and Mail reported.

Baird said he wouldn't disclose how many diplomatic staff remained for security reasons.

"Due to travel restrictions imposed by the Syrian authorities and the ongoing deterioration of the security situation, our ability to help Canadians in other locations in the country has been significantly reduced," his statement said.

Some 3,400 Canadians were known to be in Syria before Ottawa appealed them to leave in mid-December. Of them, 470 requested expedited exits, the Globe said.

Canada is among numerous countries that imposed sanctions against the government of Bashar Assad in the 10 months he has been using police and military to put down anti-government demonstrations.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in the Syrian uprising, the United Nations estimates.

Topics: John Baird
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