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Turkey evacuates embassy officials' families in Damascus following attack

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News | 11/13/2011 12:00:00 AM |

A crowd of around a thousand attacked the Turkish embassy in Damascus on Saturday evening, throwing stones and bottles.

Turkey has decided to evacuate the families of embassy officials in Damascus while the ambassador is set to remain in the city, CNN Turk channel reported.

A crowd of around a thousand attacked the Turkish embassy in Damascus on Saturday evening, throwing stones and bottles before Syrian police intervened to break up the protest, Turkey's state-run Anatolian news agency said Sunday.

Attacks were also staged against Turkey's consulate in Aleppo and its honorary consulate in Latakia, the agency reported Turkish embassy officials in Damascus as saying.

The attacks took place hours after the Arab League suspended Syria for failing to carry out a promise to halt its armed crackdown on 8-month-old pro-democracy demonstrations and open a dialogue with its opponents.

On Saturday evening, residents in Syria said crowds armed with sticks and knives attacked the Saudi Arabian embassy in Damascus and the French and Turkish consulates in Latakia after the Arab League suspended Syria.

They said hundreds of men shouting slogans in support of President Bashar al-Assad beat a guard and broke into the Saudi embassy in Abu Rummaneh, three blocks away from Assad's offices in one of the most heavily policed areas of the capital.

Outside the Turkish embassy, protesters chanted anti-Turkey slogans, tried to climb the walls and force the gates open. Syrian police intervened using teargas to break up the protest as the demonstrators threw stones and bottles, Anatolian said.

After cultivating ties with Assad and Syria for several years, Turkey has this year robustly condemned the repression of peaceful protests, fearing Syrian violence could spill over the border if it develops a stronger ethnic or sectarian dimension.

Syrian opposition figures have met in Istanbul to forge a united front, the Syrian National Council. Turkey has also given sanctuary to Syrian military officers who have defected.

In Aleppo, demonstrators entered the consulate garden and tried to lower the Turkish flag but were prevented from doing so by consulate officials.

A group of some 5,000 gathered outside the Turkish honorary consulate in Latakia, 330 km (210 miles) north of Damascus on the Mediterranean coast, and broke windows. The officials said a Turkish flag was burned at this protest, Anatolian said.

No officials at the Turkish diplomatic missions were injured in the protests, it said.

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