Britain again summons Syrian envoy over intimidation

AFP , Thursday 13 Oct 2011

The Syrian ambassador to London is summoned for a third time by the British government over alleged intimidation of activists in exile

Britain's Foreign Office has again summoned the Syrian ambassador to London over alleged intimidation of exiled activists, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday.

It is the third time this year that Syrian Ambassador Sami Khiyami has been summoned by the British government amid unrest in the Arab nation, while it also rescinded his invitation to Prince William's wedding in April.

"The Syrian ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office this morning and told that any harassment or intimidation of Syrians in our country is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Hague told parliament.

Hague urged Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to "step aside now and allow others to take forward reform", adding that in contrast to Libya "appalling violence and repression continues in Syria."

Hague said the warning came a day after junior Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt had met members of the opposition Syrian National Council in Paris, while Hague himself met Syrian activists in London at the end of September.

The Foreign Office first summoned Khiyami in May to protest at the crackdown against protesters by Assad's regime.

In June, he was summoned again over media reports that a diplomat at the embassy had been intimidating Syrians in Britain, and that members of their families in Syria had been threatened.

In April, Britain abruptly withdrew Khiyami's invitation to the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton following pressure from rights groups and the media.

Speaking after the Syrian ambassador attended the Foreign Office on Thursday, Burt said he was "deeply concerned by continued reports suggesting harassment and intimidation by Syrian diplomats in the UK.

"In summoning the Syrian ambassador today, the UK made very clear that any such behaviour will not be tolerated and must immediately stop.

"We will take appropriate action on evidence that such action is happening and continue to encourage anyone who has experienced harassment or intimidation to report this to the police.

"They continue to investigate allegations and we are working with them closely," he said.

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