Syria wants ambassadors in capital
US, French envoys told not to travel
BEIRUT - Syria warned the US and French ambassadors yesterday not to travel outside the capital without permission, two weeks after they angered the regime by visiting a city that has become the center of the country’s four-month-old uprising.
If the United States and French envoys disobey the order, Syria will ban all diplomats from leaving Damascus, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said at Damascus University.
“We did not evict the two ambassadors because we want the relations to develop in the future,’’ Moallem said.
“If these acts are repeated, we will impose a ban preventing [diplomats] from going more than 15 miles outside Damascus,’’ he said.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke Fulton said the order reflected a government that has something to hide. She said diplomats must be allowed to travel throughout Syria to document the crackdown.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Syrian authorities “to stop repression immediately’’ and urged President Bashar Assad “to concretely respond to pressing grievances and longer-term concerns of the Syrian people,’’ UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
The regime has banned most foreign media and restricted media coverage, making it nearly impossible to independently verify events on the ground.
On July 7 and 8, US Ambassador Robert Ford and French Ambassador Eric Chevallier traveled to Hama, about 125 miles north of the capital, in separate trips to express support for the Syrian people to demonstrate peacefully. The State Department said friendly Syrians welcomed Ford and lavished his car with flowers and olive branches.
Hama residents said that the visits helped prevent attacks by security forces.
But the regime seized on Ford’s visit to assert that foreign conspirators, not true reform-seekers, are behind the unrest.