Obama sending Syrian ambassador back to Damascus

December 6, 2011 - 11:06 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior Obama administration official says the United States is sending its top envoy to Syria back to Damascus after recalling him Oct. 22 amid worsening violence.

The official says ambassador Robert Ford is due to return Tuesday. The administration has argued that his presence in Syria is important for advancing U.S. policy goals and serving as a witness to the ongoing violence there. Syria had responded by recalling its ambassador.

Ford had been due to return in late November but security concerns prompted the administration to delay his trip. U.S. officials said Ford would be meeting with opposition figures in Syria.

Ford's presence in Syria was a symbolic part of President Barack Obama's effort to engage Damascus, which was without a U.S. ambassador for years after the Bush administration broke ties over Syria's alleged role in the 2005 assassination of a political candidate in neighboring Lebanon. The officials commented on grounds of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

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Anne Gearan reported from Geneva.