Syria Must Do More To Protect Embassy: US

The United States said Monday that Syria has offered to take some steps Washington has asked for to boost security at the US embassy in Damascus but that more is needed for the mission to stay open.

Syria: Pro-Assad protesters attack US embassy in Damascus

The United States said Monday that Syria has offered to take some steps Washington has asked for to boost security at the US embassy in Damascus but that more is needed for the mission to stay open.

The State Department disclosed Friday it is considering closing its embassy in Damascus over growing safety concerns as the death toll mounts in the Syrian regime's crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

"We have asked them for some steps. They've offered about half of what we've asked for," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, adding the requests were made over the last few days and weeks.

"They have offered to do some of the things that we've asked for, but not enough," Nuland said without elaborating on the nature of the measures sought.

"We'd like to see this settled as soon as possible. I'm not going to put a precise deadline on it. The conversation with Syrian authorities continues," Nuland said.

She said that closing the embassy is "not something that we want to do" as Ambassador Robert Ford and other US diplomats help report what is going on inside Syria and keep the pressure on the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.

"So if we had to do this (close the embassy), it would be a significant step, and that's why we've been trying so hard to negotiate increased security for the mission," Nuland said.

The spokeswoman said there are other foreign embassies near the US mission that share similar security concerns.

The State Department said Friday that it was considering closing the mission amid "serious concerns about the deteriorating security situation in Damascus, including the recent spate of car bombs, and about the safety and security of embassy personnel."

Suicide car bombers hit two security service bases in Damascus on December 23, killing 44 people, in attacks the Assad regime blamed on Al-Qaeda but which the opposition said were the work of the regime itself.

On January 11, the State Department said it would further reduce the number of staff at its embassy in Damascus, updating a warning in October in which embassy staff were restricted and family members asked to leave.

In December, Ford returned to Damascus, where he has championed protesters facing a deadly crackdown, after he was abruptly pulled out in October due to threats.