|Syrians at Qatari Embassy in Damascus
Pro-regime Syrians stormed Embassies in protest of Arab League ban on Syria
(DP-News - agencies)
DAMASCUS- Crowds armed with sticks and knives attacked the Saudi Arabian embassy in Damascus and French and Turkish consulates in the city of Latakia on Saturday after the Arab League suspended Syria, residents said.
They said hundreds of men shouting slogans in support of President Bashar Assad beat a guard and broke into the Saudi embassy in Abu Rummaneh, three blocks away from Assad's offices in one of the most heavily policed areas of the capital.
"We sacrifice our blood and our soul for you, Bashar," the crowd shouted, according to neighborhood residents.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that a group of demonstrators "gathered outside the embassy, threw stones at it, and then stormed the building".
The statement, carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), said Syrian security forces "did not take measures to stop them ransacking the embassy", adding that the demonstrators stayed inside for a while before they were ordered out by Syrian security.
"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia strongly condemns this incident and holds Syrian authorities responsible for the security and protection of Saudi interests and citizens in Syria".
Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador from Damascus in August, when King Abdullah demanded an end to the crackdown.
A senior diplomat in Damascus confirmed the attacks. "They did a fair bit of damage to the Saudi embassy. We do not have the full picture from Latakia, but the attacks there appear to have been really bad," the diplomat said.
Report from Damascus said Saturday that Saudi, Qatari, French, and Turkish embassies have stormed by pro-regime protesters.
France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia said their diplomatic premises were attacked by pro-government crowds overnight. Pro-regime protesters were also filmed attacking the Qatari embassy. France and Turkey summoned Syrian ambassador in Paris and Ankara to protest against the attacks. Turkey sent planes to evacuate member the families of embassy staff.
Similar attacks took place in Latakia, 330 kms north of Damascus on the Mediterranean coast, where French and Turkish consulates were the targets of angry crowds, residents said.
The attacks took place hours after the Arab League suspended Syria for failing to carry out a promise to halt its armed crackdown on eight-month-old pro-democracy demonstrations and open a dialogue with its opponents.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said Syria's charge d'affaires was given a formal protest note demanding protection for its diplomatic missions. Turkey also demanded that the assailants be identified and brought to justice.
The ministry statement said Turkey's demands were conveyed in "strongly-worded terms" and said Turkish officials would be closely monitoring developments and "take whatever measure it deems necessary according to developments." It did not elaborate.
On Saturday, Turkey said that it will evacuate the families of its diplomats in Syria after protesters attacked its missions there in the wake of the Arab League's decision to suspend Damascus, broadcaster CNN Turk reported on Sunday.
Reuters reported on Saturday that crowd of about 1,000 attacked the Turkish embassy in Damascus on Saturday evening, as news spread that the Arab League had taken action against Syria for failing to halt its armed crackdown on eight months of pro-democracy demonstrations.
The attackers threw stones and bottles before Syrian police intervened to break up the protest, Turkey's state-run Anatolian news agency said.
Attacks were also staged against Turkey's consulate in Aleppo and its honorary consulate in Latakia, it reported Turkish embassy officials in Damascus as saying.
Turkey on Sunday sent a plane to Damascus to evacuate the families of its diplomats as well as nonessential staff, Anatolia reported. Turkish Foreign Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.
In Beirut too, protesters gathered in front the Qatari embassy and chanted against the decision. Some of the protesters forced their way to the top of the building, where the embassy is located, and removed the Qatari flag and put up a Syrian one, witnesses said.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia were among the states to vote with the decision made by the 22-member organization, while Lebanon and Yemen voted against it and Iraq abstained.
On Sunday in Damascus, hundreds of baton-carrying Syrian riot police in helmets ringed the U.S., Qatari, Saudi and Turkish embassies -- all located in the capital's upscale Abu Rummaneh district. Three fire trucks were parked in front of the Turkish Embassy. The Turkish and Qatari embassies were closed for the day but the Saudi Embassy was operating, an operator said.
In a statement UK Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said “I condemn the attacks on the Saudi and Qatari embassies in Damascus and the French and Turkish consulates in Latakia, in Syria. By allowing these attacks to take place, the Syrian regime is demonstrating yet again that its first response is repression and intimidation. This cycle of violence must stop now for the sake of the Syrian people and for those who support them. We support the Arab League in its efforts to bring about an end to the killing of Syrian people. Its Member States' diplomats should not become targets as a result of these efforts.”