Washington Post

U.S. closes embassy, pulls diplomats from Syria as violence intensifies

DAMASCUS, SYRIA — The United States closed its embassy in Damascus on Monday amid escalating violence in Syria and an increasingly urgent effort by the Obama administration and like-minded governments to raise pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to leave power.

After the failure of an anti-Assad resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Saturday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed a U.S. call to form an international political coalition, similar to the one that preceded military intervention in Libya, to coordinate anti-Assad actions.

But even as shelling continued Monday in the city of Homs, the Western allies made clear that they had no plans for military action in Syria. Instead, U.S. and other officials spoke of tightening economic sanctions in the hope of strangling Assad’s government and persuading those around him to abandon him, as they look for ways to help the weak and unorganized Syrian opposition.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was scheduled to visit Damascus on Tuesday for talks with Syrian officials, but there was little optimism that the meetings would alleviate the crisis. Along with China, Russia vetoed the
anti-Assad resolution, and on Monday, Lavrov denounced “certain Western states” for what he called their “hysterical statements” about the veto.

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