WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department says there's no way of knowing when the U.S. ambassador to Syria will be able to return to that country. A spokesman says it depends on whether the Syrian government ends what he calls its "incitement campaign" against Ambassador Robert Ford.
For now, Ford is back in Washington. Officials say he was pulled out of Syria for his own safety, because of "credible threats" against him.
Ford has been the target of several incidents of intimidation by pro-government thugs in Syria -- where the U.S. has denounced the brutal crackdown by President Bashar Assad against months of anti-government demonstrations.
Ford has enraged Syrian authorities with his forceful defense of peaceful protests, and his criticism of the crackdown.
Ford arrived in Syria earlier this year, the first American ambassador there since 2005. He was sent there in an effort to get Syria to change its policies on Israel, Lebanon, Iraq and support for extremist groups.
The Senate unanimously approved his nomination earlier this month. He had won praise for his determination to meet Syrian opposition leaders in a hostile environment.
Media reports say Ford was hit last week with eggs and tomatoes while going to a mosque in Damascus. Similar incidents have occurred as he met with dissident groups or individuals.
(Copyright 2011, The Associated Press)