In Washington's strongest condemnation of the Syrian regime since a crackdown on protesters in March, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday said that President Bashar al-Assad had “lost all legitimacy” to rule.
But on Tuesday Syria's state news agency Sana hit back at Clinton, describing her words as "provocative", and "further proof of the flagrant interference of the United States in the internal affairs of Syria".
Clinton's comments were made just hours after a crowd of Assad loyalists attacked the U.S. and French embassies in the capital, Damascus.
Clinton said the Syrian government had failed to meet its international responsibilities to protect all diplomats and the property of all countries. She added:
President Assad is not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power. Our goal is to see that the will of the Syrian people for a democratic transformation occurs.
Diplomatic tensions have risen since French and US envoys last week visited the city of Hama, a protest hotspot, without permission.
The Syrian government said the visit by the U.S. ambassador was proof the U.S. was seeking to “incite” rebellion.
The BBC reported that pro-regime demonstrations had been taking place outside both embassies for two days, and that the residence of U.S. ambassador, Robert Ford, was also targeted.
The demonstrators started off throwing eggs at the U.S. and French embassies, to climbing over compound walls, reported Bloomberg. Three French guards were also reportedly injured.
Clinton said the Syrian government was using the anti-American rallies to divert attention from its crackdown on citizens.
By either allowing or inciting this kind of behavior, Syrian leaders are clearly trying to deflect attention from their crackdown internally, and to move the world’s view away from what they’re doing.
Clinton also said that Assad had “sought and accepted aid from the Iranians” on how to suppress the Syrian people.
A U.S. official said President Barack Obama's administration would seek compensation for the damage caused by the attack.