WASHINGTON, June 27 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Monday ruled out an immediate recall of its ambassador to Syria in response to the Arab state's alleged crackdown on protesters.
Senator John McCain on Sunday called for Robert Ford, U.S. ambassador to Damascus, to return home, while Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, followed suit on Monday, saying Ford is being used by the Syrian government "for propaganda purposes" by joining a recent government-organized tour of northern Syria.
"Our review remains that Ambassador Ford is doing useful work in Damascus and in Syria, he continues to meet with a broad cross- section of Syrian opposition," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
"He is now occasionally meeting with members of the government as appropriate. We did think that his trip up north, even though it was organized by the Syrian government, allowed him to convey our messages," she added. "So we still see his role there as useful and helpful to our ability to have a stronger understanding of what's going on inside Syria."
She described as "significant" the meeting of some 160 nonpartisan members of the Syrian opposition that began in Damascus on Monday, saying "It's the first meeting of its kind in many decades."
Syria has been gripped by more than three months of anti- government protests. The government blames the unrest on "armed extremist groups" that aim to topple President Bashar al-Assad and establish an Islamic emirate instead, saying 1,300 members of the security forces have died in clashes.
The unrest has sparked international condemnation for the alleged bloody crackdown on protesters by Syrian security forces.