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article imageIn Syria, U.S. embassy set to close

By Lynn Herrmann     Jan 21, 2012 in Politics
Washington - Amid a rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria, the United States is making final preparations for closing its embassy in Damascus, with all American personnel being evacuated by this month’s end, administration officials said on Friday.
The embassy closing will occur because Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has failed to authorize enhanced protection for the facility. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior U.S. official said, “Unless we see that, we have no choice,” the Washington Post reports.
Arab League monitors have failed in their efforts at bringing the country’s violence to an end. al-Assad’s government has been defiant in negotiating efforts, and the country appears headed toward a civil war.
In Homs, one of the central cities in the uprising which began last March, reports are growing of sectarian cleansing in once-mixed neighborhoods.
In Damascus, a city which had been calm and devoid of conflict, numerous checkpoints have arisen and residents now hear the sound of gunfire.
“There’s absolutely no sign of light,” said a Western diplomat in Damascus, the New York Times reports. “If anything, it’s darker than ever. And I don’t know where it’s going to end. I can’t tell you. I don’t think anyone can.”
A series of recent car bombings is forcing the U.S. decision on its embassy. “The security situation across Syria, which is deteriorating with each day that Assad clings to power, demonstrates further that Assad is losing control of the country and reinforces our point that Assad has lost all legitimacy,” the anonymous official told the Post.
A report last month by Human Rights Watch states the Syrian government has been conducting arbitrary arrests and meting out detainee tortures since protests began almost a year ago Daraa, located in the south of the country.
Earlier this month, al-Assad’s presidential decree, is seen by some as another attempt by the struggling regime at controlling dissent. The decree grants general amnesty for those who committed crimes in relation to the uprising, between March 15, 2011 and January 15, 2012, but according to SANA, the “fugitives cannot benefit from the decree unless they turn themselves in prior to January 31, 2012
Opposition groups state the decree has “no value.” This week, the General Committee of the Syrian Revolution reported at least 6,275 people have been killed since the uprising began.
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