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US orders suspension of Syria embassy operations in Washington

The United States has told Syria to suspend its embassy operations in Washington. All personnel who are not legal US citizens have been told to leave the country.

The Obama administration officially ordered the suspension of all embassy operations in Washington on Tuesday, notifying Syria it must also close its honorary consulates in Troy, Michigan and Houston, Texas.

The United States has "determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by" the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States," the new US special envoy to Syria, Daniel Rubinstein said in a statement.

The embassy in Washington has been operating for some time without an ambassador with only a few low-level staff who have been providing limited consular services.

Now they too, if not legal US citizens or permanent residents, must leave the country.

US 'will continue to assist those seeking change'

Rubinstein stressed, however, that the US wanted to continue diplomatic relations with Syria.

"Despite the differences between our governments, the United States continues to maintain diplomatic relations with the state of Syria as an expression of our longstanding ties with the Syrian people, an interest that will endure long after Bashar al-Assad leaves power," he said.

"The United States will continue to assist those seeking change in Syria, to help end the slaughter, and to resolve the crisis through negotiations - for the benefit of the Syrian people," he added.

Tuesday's statement made no mention of the operating terms of the Syrian mission to the United Nations based in New York.

Fighting between President Assad's forces and opposition groups is now ín its fourth year, with

daily reports of clashes and fatalities.

More than 140,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Syria since the

uprising against the Assad regime erupted in March 2011.

More than 2.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

ccp/rc (AFP, AP, dpa)

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