• The U.S. ordered the Syrian government to immediately suspend its embassy and consulates in the U.S..
• The U.S. also ordered Syrian diplomats who are not legal U.S. residents to leave the country.
• The decision came in response to Syria's move to suspend consular services for Syrians in the U.S..
WASHINGTON, March 18 (Xinhua) -- The United States ordered the Syrian government to immediately suspend its embassy in Washington and consulates in the United States, an official said on Tuesday.
The U.S. also ordered Syrian diplomats at the embassy and consulates who are not legal U.S. residents to leave the country, Daniel Rubinstein, U.S. Special Envoy for Syria, said in a statement.
The decision, three years after the start of the Syrian crisis, came in response to Syria's move to suspend consular services for Syrians in the United State.
"We have determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by that regime to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States," Rubinstein said.
The U.S. continues to maintain diplomatic relations with Syria "as an expression of our long-standing ties with the Syrian people, " the U.S. envoy said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday named Rubinstein, a senior Middle East expert, as the new U.S. Special Envoy for Syria.
Rubinstein will travel to the Middle East later this month to begin consultations with Syrians and others seeking an end to the Syrian crisis.
Presidential elections dominate discussions in Syria
DAMASCUS, March 18 (Xinhua) -- As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, the country braces itself for the upcoming presidential elections amid accusations by opposition groups and world powers that the electoral law endorsed by Syria's parliament is bias in favor of President Bashar al-Assad.
Assad, whose second term will end on July 17, hasn't yet announced whether or not he plans to run in the presidential elections, but he has reportedly expressed interest in running again.
Fresh wave of violence in Syria kills 10
DAMASCUS, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Ten people were killed and tens of others wounded on Tuesday in separate attacks by Syrian militant groups across the country, according to local media.
Five people were killed and 20 others wounded when mortar shells slammed the al-Zablatani district of the capital Damascus and the Jaramana suburb, in the eastern edge of the capital.