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The US State Department was dismayed Friday by criticism from Syria over a visit by the US ambassador to Hama, slamming as “absolute rubbish” the charge that his presence in the restive city was a provocation.

Ford left Hama at midday Friday after meeting several demonstrators and returned to Damascus, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, adding the Syrian authorities had been informed in advance of the visit.

“Frankly we’re a little bit dismayed” at the Syrian reaction, Nuland told reporters in Washington, adding the idea that Ford’s trip to the flashpoint city was a surprise for the Syrian government “doesn’t make sense.”

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