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U.S. Touts Benefits Of Envoy To Damascus

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (UPI) — U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford is challenging the Syrian regime about its unfulfilled promises of reform, the U.S. State Department said.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has rolled out a series of political reforms his regime claims address concerns expressed by anti-government protesters in recent months.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency blamed anti-government forces and snipers for the deaths of three police officers and two civilians Friday in Aleppo.

Most reports out of Syria come from the official news agency and opposition groups as independent media coverage is restricted. Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said media restrictions meant having an envoy in Damascus even more valuable.

She said Ford hasn’t been able to get outside of Damascus but has spoken with regime officials to express Washington’s concerns about violence in the country.

“He challenged the regime’s lip service about enacting reforms and he called for free and open access for the media and also for strict compliance with Vienna Convention obligations to protect diplomatic personnel,” she told reporters during her regular press briefing.

The U.N. Security Council hasn’t been able to reach a consensus resolution condemning Syria for the violence, though members of the Arab and Western world have criticized Assad’s regime for the violence.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview with CBS News, said more sanctions were needed to put additional pressure on Assad’s government.

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