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By Edward Yeranian
Cairo
30 October 2008

The Syrian government appears to have mobilized tens of thousands of people, busing them in to Damascus from far-flung corners of the country. They were demonstrating against a raid in eastern Syria. Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Cairo.

Syrian protesters gather at Youssef al-Azmi square during a demonstration against the US raid on a village near the Syrian-Iraqi border last Monday, in Damascus, Syria, 30 Oct 2008
Syrian protesters gather at Youssef al-Azmi square during demonstration against US raid on village near Syrian-Iraqi border last Monday, in Damascus, 30 Oct 2008
Syrian government television showed images of tens of thousands of demonstrators, waving banners and shouting slogans in support of President Bashar al Assad, in what appeared to be a mostly peaceful, government-sponsored protest of a raid in eastern Syria, widely believed to be conducted by the United States. The United States has not formally acknowledged involvement.

The American Embassy in Damascus was closed, for safety reasons. Hundreds of armed Syrian riot police surrounded the building to keep demonstrators away. The U.S. Cultural Center, as well as the American Community School were also closed for the day.

Syria's official news agency, SANA, quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Miqdad as saying that Damascus is awaiting official explanation from the United States and Iraqi governments on what he calls an unacceptable violation of Syrian sovereignty.

Unconfirmed reports say that Damascus has asked the United States to close its embassy, the U.S. Cultural Center and the American School by next week.

Abeer al-Ahmadi, spokeswoman for the Syrian Information Ministry, was curt and to the point in describing the situation in a phone interview.

She says the demonstration is evidence of the Syrian people's anger at the United States.

A elderly Syrian man, claiming to represent the Farmer's Union, gave glowing praise to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

He says Syrians would willingly sacrifice their souls, their blood and their children for President Assad.

A older woman with white hair, insisting that she represents all Syrian women, also denounced the weekend raid.

She decries what she calls American criminal actions against Syria, the Palestinians and Iraq.

A large banner was unfurled in Damascus' Youssef al Azmi Square, proclaiming that the United States must be held accountable for its actions.

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