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Assad men hurl tomatoes at US envoy

Supporters of President Bashar Assad have stoned the convoy of the US ambassador to Syria as he arrived for a meeting with a leading opposition figure.

They then pelted him with eggs and tomatoes and tried to break into the building while he was inside.

The American envoy was trapped in the office for three hours by the angry mob outside.

Ambassador Robert Ford, an outspoken critic of Assad's crackdown on the six-month-old anti-government uprising, was unharmed and eventually escorted out by Syrian security forces, who arrived more than an hour after the attack began.

He was meeting Hassan Abdul-Azim, who heads the outlawed Arab Socialist Democratic Union party.

Mr Ford has angered the Syrian regime in past months by visiting a couple of the protest centres outside of Damascus in a show of solidarity with the anti-government uprising.

The latest incident could further raise tensions between Washington and Damascus, which has accused the United States of helping incite violence in Syria. In August, President Barack Obama demanded Mr Assad resign, saying he had lost his legitimacy as a ruler.

"A crowd of demonstrators tried to assault Ambassador Ford and embassy colleagues today as they went about doing the normal work of any embassy," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington.

He said the ambassador went to a meeting with "a well-known Syrian political figure," adding that Mr Ford and his staff were back safe at the US Embassy.

"The mob was violent. It tried, unsuccessfully, to attack embassy personnel while they were inside several embassy vehicles, seriously damaging the vehicles in the process," said Mr Toner. "Syrian security officers finally assisted in securing a path from the ambassador's meeting for him and his aides back to the embassy."

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