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Jordan expels Syrian envoy in diplomatic tussle

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 26, 2014 at 1:43 pm •  Published: May 26, 2014
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"The ambassador could have been summoned, and a complaint could have been lodged. But to say: 'Get out' — that's very tough."

A Facebook page created by Suleiman's supporters suggested his defiance and loyalty to Assad. The "Network of those who love Mr. Ambassador Dr. Bahjat Suleiman" posted what it said was his expulsion notice from Jordan. The page later contained a photo claiming to show Suleiman being carried on the shoulders of his backers. "Syria needs you more," was emblazoned across it.

Suleiman had headed one of Syria's most powerful internal intelligence branches and was sent to Jordan as ambassador in 2009, perhaps after a falling out with Assad's inner circle, Jaber and Syria analyst Aron Lund said.

It was unclear if the diplomatic tussle will have any long-lasting repercussions, including on the two countries' shared border.

Rebels control Syria's borders with Iraq and Turkey, leaving only the Lebanese and Jordanian border posts in the government's hands. The corridor with Jordan allows Syrian products to reach wealthy Gulf markets, helping an economy shattered by three years of civil war.

Jordan also hosts nearly 600,000 registered Syrian refugees — although Jordanian officials say the number is far higher.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel-Karim Ali, said the upcoming election will be the resounding answer to those who doubt Assad's government will prevail in the conflict. He said he expects a huge turnout for the vote, to be held abroad Wednesday and inside Syria on June 3.

He said Western leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande criticize and oppose the election because they fear the results.

"The Syrian people will say their word in these elections, and their word is the one that counts. Not Obama's word, Cameron's or Hollande's," Ali said.

Assad is all but guaranteed victory because opposition groups are boycotting the vote, which will only be held in government-held areas of the fragmented country. Rebels control vast territory of Syria.

More than 160,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since the uprising began in March 2011 and became a civil war.

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Associated Press writers Omar Akour in Amman, Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and Diaa Hadid in Beirut contributed to this report.