Assailants try to enter French embassy in Syria

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French embassy guards fired live ammunition to prevent a crowd from storming France’s main diplomatic mission in Syria, in what the foreign ministry described as a “blatant” violation of international laws.

Syrian security forces were doing nothing to stop the incidents, which were recurring, a ministry official added.
“(France) reminds (Syria) that it is not with such illegal methods that the authorities in Damascus will turn the attention away from the fundamental problem, which is to stop the repression of the Syrian population and to launch democratic reform,” foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

France also expressed concern about Syria’s summoning of the French ambassador to explain his visit to the restive Syrian city of Hama last week, Reuters reports.

France has led attempts to pass a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government crackdown on protesters. More than 1,300 people have been killed since the unrest began some 15 weeks ago, and France has said this has cost the Syrian president his legitimacy.

The embassy attacks, a sharp escalation in tension between the two countries, took place a day after France called in the Syrian envoy to Paris to complain about crowds which had surrounded its diplomatic missions in Damascus and Aleppo.

Valero said three shots had been fired into the air to disperse a mob which had tried to break through the entrance, smashed windows and penetrated the embassy’s perimeter. Three French guards were injured and vehicles were destroyed.
“They are well organised groups and it all happened in front of security forces that were supposed to protect our diplomatic missions,” he said, adding that Paris was assessing how to react and improve the embassy’s security.

He said the failure to protect the French missions violated international diplomatic accords.

SMOKING GUN

The Syrian news agency SANA quoted the Foreign Ministry on Sunday as saying the visit to Hama of French Ambassador Eric Chevallier and U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford was “clear evidence of the American and French intervention in Syria’s internal affairs and confirms that there is an external support for (protests).”

Valero said on Sunday that by summoning the French envoy, Syria had also contravened the Vienna Convention, which stipulates that diplomatic staff are free to move about in the country where they are accredited.
“It’s in this framework that our ambassador travels around Syria, just like the Syrian ambassador in France does. It would be wrong to suggest the French ambassador had secret motives,” he said.

Despite the symbolism of the envoys’ visit to Hama — the scene of a government massacre in 1982 — it gave Syrian authorities the chance to raise a false alarm about Western interventionism, said Karim Bitar, an analyst at Paris-based think tank IRIS.

The visit was a blessing for the government “which was looking to give credence to the theory of an international conspiracy,” he said. “Since Hama, the regime hasn’t stopped saying that it finally has its smoking gun proving Western intervention.”

Led by France, the European Union has slapped several rounds of sanctions on Syrian individuals, companies and banks. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in May that Paris had withdrawn its trust in President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Sarkozy has been in a tight spot because of the hero’s welcome he gave Assad at the Mediterranean summit in Paris in 2008, an event that reset Syrian relations with Europe after years of isolation for supporting terrorism.